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After Jerry's big shopping spree, is the team better?

Tim's picture

In a couple of frenzied days of free agent shopping, the Cowboys have picked up two guards, both with starting experience, a fullback, a linebacker, a back-up quarterback, a free safety and one of the top free agent corners in the league. It's the most free agents the team has signed since the modern free agent era began in 1993.

In the same span, they released kicker David Buehler, veteran corner Terence Newman and 33-year-old guard Kyle Kosier.

Finally, with their own free agents, they franchised Anthony Spencer, non-tendered restricted free agents Tony Fiammetta, Jesse Holley and Kevin Ogletree, but re-signed Ogletree for $610,000 - less than half what his tender would have been.

Let's work our way backwards through that list. I'm a little bit surprised they didn't tender Fiammetta after the clear impact he had last year, but Vickers was not all that expensive and has more experience, and the team might have been worried about Fiammetta's health - he did miss some games last year. Holley performed well in limited time, and may still remain with the team, and they got Ogletree on the cheap. I hope they can keep Holley - he's a better special teamer than Ogletree and went 7 for 7 catching balls thrown his way last year, including a few memorable ones.

Spencer's franchise tag means a maximum of $8.8 million for one year. I would say he is not worth that. On the other hand, he is an above average outside linebacker who would be tough to replace when the team has (had?) so many other holes to fill. I suspect that as camp gets closer, Spencer will agree to a longer term deal for less money per year. Otherwise, he's betting the next five years that he'll have a really great season in 2012. Would you make that bet?

The release of Buehler was an absolute no-brainer. It was crazy to carry two kickers in the first place, and with his injuries last season, we already know what the kicking game looks like without him. It's fine. Newman was a good soldier for a long time, but not a great cornerback, unfortunately. He was also very expensive, and his release freed up some of the money the team needed to sign his replacement.

The release of Kosier did surprise me a bit. He's been pretty reliable on that line. I am assuming the team just wants to go all in on the youth movement, and Kosier is 33 with some injury history. But if you're keeping score at home, this means that the entire interior line may be changed from last year, and with the tackles flipping spots, between three and five OL positions may be new. Again. Throw in a new OL coach, and that's a yellow flag for me - and I'm guessing it is for Romo, too.

Which brings us to the back-up quarterback. Kyle Orton has been pretty steady in his career, and should be a solid replacement for the retiring Jon Kitna. Romo only missed half a game last season, but played injured for a long stretch. He's had serious injuries costing him 13 games since 2008. There's no reason to think he won't be at risk again (see OL, above.) The team needs a solid back-up, and this was a good signing - but what does it say about the Stephen McGee project?

The OGs signed will be competing with the stable of young players on the roster, including Costa, Kowalski, Arkin, and Nagy. Hopefully a full off-season int eh weight room will allow the younger players to gain some strength and size. I guess I've been arguing for a long time that the team needs to seriously rebuild the offensive line - but don't fault me for being nervous about whether they know what they're doing. Because yes, it CAN get worse.

The team looks to have filled two positions of great need in the secondary - Carr is a definite upgrade and worth his contract, by all indications. Pool at safety had better be the answer, because the team has sure rotated a lot guys through there the last few years. You'd have to say Garrett and Jerry are letting the coaches have their guys, though, and that's good. The signing of Connor at inside linebacker makes me wonder what they really think of Bruce Carter, but maybe it's just insurance due to his injuries. Maybe they just don't think he's ready.

As Garrett said following all the signings, now the team can draft for talent, not need. And that's where you want to be going into the draft.

But the big question after all of this remains open: is the team actually better than they were when last season ended? My initial impression is that they are, but I have to admit I do not feel any better about the offensive line or the pass rush. So - worse? No. Better? In places, a lot. Overall, a little. I think.

philyew3
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 I'm liking the first two picks in the draft, but 3 and 4 both seem to be a reach. There were several higher graded players at those positions still on the board.
 
Should they re-visit Boise State for DT, Billy Winn with their 5th pick? Second round grade, but still out there...must be a security/injury issue.
 
Obviously not, as they just went with a mediocre WR, Danny Coale. Fifteen higher graded WRs still on the board. Not sure what is going on in the war room, but after some smart moves at the top of the draft I'm beginning to get a familiar feeling about this draft. Sigh.

philyew3
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 If they have shopped for youth and coachability, it is to be hoped that the coaching part is a substantial step up from the past.  
 It's clear that they can't buy the quantity AND quality required in one free agency period (especially when penalized in the way that they have been). Still, the miserable history of recruitment over the last decade doesn't give me any encouragement when looking at a bunch of hires attracting as many negatives scouting asides as this group has. 

  If Spencer is worth $8.8m, I'll eat my hat, but you are right, replacing him would have been an even bigger lottery. 

 I've given up having any expectations of this team and it will probably take until the very eve of the season for me to generate any excitement about the prospect of another year on the Cowboys' rollercoaster. Sad.  

Danny Smith
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 I think the team is definitely better in certain regards - we have added more youth and depth to the interior offensive line and the secondary which were glaring needs. The team however has dropped quite a bit in talent at the WR slot with the loss of Laurent Robinson. However, I continue to say if Dwayne Harris is given a consistent chance to play he will shine at the #3 WR position. 

Danny Smith
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