Over the last couple days, Dallas has been the most active player in free agency, nabbing 6 players in total, ranging from blue chips like Brandon Carr to backups like Mackenzy Bernadeau. Here are the grades for all of the signings and outlook on how it impacts this year’s draft for the Cowboys.
Brandon Carr, CB (5 years 50.1 million dollars)
Brandon Carr will help fix one of the biggest weaknesses the Cowboys have had in the last two years as Terrence Newman slowed down with age and Mike Jenkins has been injured time and time again-cornerback. He is one of the top players at his position and has sure hands, evidenced by the fact that he had more than one interception per 4 pass deflections. At only 26 years old, he represents something of an anomaly for Jerry Jones and crew-a big contract on someone who deserves it and isn’t 30 years old (Leonard Davis and Terrence Newman’s extension come to mind.)
Dan Connor, LB (2 years, 6.5 million dollars)
Dan Connor could easily be the most underrated signing the Cowboys have all year, and for only 6.5 million dollars he was an absolute steal. The reason he was signed in the first place wasn’t to start, but instead was designed as a wake-up call to rookie Bruce Carter (fitting into Jason Garret’s mantra of competition at every position.) Financially, this deal is an A+ seeing as he could have signed (and potentially started) with a number of different clubs, but if he does in fact beat out Bruce Carter, last year’s second round draft pick would have to be seen as a bust.
Brodney Pool, S (Financial Details not Provided)
Continuing in the trail of young cheap players is Brodney Pool, who previously played four years in Cleveland and comes in from Rex Ryan’s team in New York. He is a talented, if so far underachieving, player who unfortunately has a serious history with concussions (at least four in the last five years.) Despite great size for the position (6’2, 210) and soft hands, he rarely makes impact plays and with his injury problems, has trouble staying on the field. In fact, he hasn’t played a full season in four years, making a safety a mid-round draft priority come April.
Lawrence Vickers, FB (2 years, 2.4 million dollars)
After the Cowboys decided not to tender Tony Fiametta, they sought a (somehow) better option, and may have found it in Lawrence Vickers. He’s been the lead blocker for Peyton Hillis (the year he “earned” the Madden Cover) and Arian Foster (the fifth best rusher this year) so obviously he’s a blocking threat comprable to, if not slightly than, Fiammetta. Also a factor is his catching out of the backfield, a trait he swears he has but has been under-utilized thus far. It remains to be seen how this will be utilized in Dallas, but an extra weapon is never a bad thing.
Mackenzy Bernadeau, G (4 years, 11 million dollars)
This is where things drop off of a cliff because of large contracts for bad players; although, at least they in broke the traditional mold and overpaid someone who is young. The only two things keeping this signing from being an “F” is the fact that guard was (and is) a position of need and he’s only 25. Actually, Mackenzy Bernadeau was almost Mr. Irrelevant when he was drafted number 250 overall from Bentley University in Massachusetts: from what Carolina fans are saying, he seems to play like it. One fan said that Bernadeau leaving was “the best move we'[ve] (Panthers) made so far,” with another mocking the fact that an excited Cowboys fan bragged about his “potential.” The forum members were probably in hysterics when they saw his contract figures, and the way things are looking, they won’t be the only ones laughing-he will too, all the way to the bank.
Nate Livings, G (5 years, 19 million dollars)
This is probably the fifth worst signing of the off-season, behind Eric Wright, Laurent Robinson, Frostee Rucker and John Carlson, and the first among teams with a shot at a winning record. Every winning organization knows that the way to win is by giving five year deals to 30 year old below-average starters that should be riding the bench. The Patriots did that with Brian Waters and the Packers with Josh Sitton. Oh wait, no they didn’t! Brian Waters got a one year deal and Josh Sitton was 25! Actually, Sitton was named Offensive Lineman of the Year by the NFL Alumni Association in 2010, and makes (on average) only 1.05 million dollars a year more than Livings.
One would think that rather than sign Bernadeau, they could have cut Kyle Kosier, had Montrae Holland start at one guard spot, signed Scott Wells (one of the best centers in the league) to a 3 year, 18 million dollar deal (the same per year average as the Rams signed him for), and drafted a guard (preferably David DeCastro) with either a first or second round pick. If they had done that, the Cowboys would, for 1.25 million dollars more, have a legitimate center, a veteran guard who knows the system and is a proven commodity, and a shot at the best guard in the draft, a player universally heralded as the best prospect since All-Decade lineman Steve Hutchinson. Than again, what do Cowboys fans know about football?
How these Prospects Impact Draft Plans
- Despite the two signings at guard, expect one to be picked early, perhaps at 14. Either DeCastro or Cordy Glenn will be available, and either would be an upgrade at what looks to be a hole (despite the fact that Livings was signed with starting duties in mind, most metrics will show him to be one of the worst guards in the league.) He wasn’t paid 19 million dollars to sit on the bench, but DeCastro at left guard and Montrae Holland at right guard, it seems ideal that he would.
- Brandon Carr pushes Cornerback to a mid-to-late round draft pick. Carr, Jenkins and Scandrick seem solid, but after that is an enormous drop off. No one wants Alan Ball on the field. Ever.
- This means that between Guard and Outside Linebacker, whichever isn’t chosen in the first round will be chosen in the second. Anthony Spencer is a very good player and is great at getting pressures, but quarterbacks don’t wake up in the morning with bruises from pressures.
- Safety seems like a third round option. With a guard in the first and a pass rusher in the second, a backup safety for when either Pool or Sensabaugh (inevitably) get injured is a must. Barry Church is great on special teams, but that’s where he should stay.
- Moving up could be an option too. With more picks (especially with a compensatory fourth from Steven Bowen) than holes, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys move up. This is just pure speculation, but higher quality players are never a bad thing. It’s highly unlikely that the Cowboys will trade multiple mid round picks to move up to a top five pick (there’s no players there that fit an immediate need) but a first and third to the Bills so they can select Melvin Ingram wouldn’t be the least bit surprising. Another option would be to trade picks for future ones.
- One scenario would be Mike Adams falling to the Cowboys’ pick (stranger things have happened) and Detroit trading their first to get a decent offensive lineman. Again, this is speculation, but logically it makes sense. With Outside Linebacker already set for this year, Dallas could justify it by drafting an outside linebacker in the third round (like Bruce Irvin if the Cowboys are high on him-Irvin seems like Victor Butler 2.0,) resigning Anthony Spencer or another outside linebacker, or packaging the picks to trade up (along with presumably a second round and a future first round pick) to get a quarterback of the future. Tony Romo is a free agent in 2014, and it could pay to get a quarterback before then.