Dallas Cowboys: Chase Blackburn

IRVING, Texas – With Tony Romo’s contract extension out of the way, the Cowboys can figure out ways to surround the quarterback with better players.

Todd Archer joins Galloway & Company to discuss the latest on the Cowboys giving Tony Romo a six-year, $108 million contract extension.

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Romo’s new deal opens up $5 million in salary cap space for 2013. He was scheduled to count $16.818 million against the cap, but will count $11.818 million after signing his extension.

That is more than enough room to add three possible starters in free agency. Remember, Brandon Carr signed a five-year, $50 million deal last year, but his first-year cap number was just $3.2 million.

Romo will receive a $25 million signing bonus with $5 million counted as the proration over five years. He will receive a base salary of $1.5 million and had an outstanding proration amount of $5.318 million remaining. Add it up and it equals $11.818 million for 2013.

The Cowboys have had interest in low-cost veterans, but players like linebacker Chase Blackburn and Matt Slauson signed in recent days. There are other possibilities available, although it’s not clear what level of interest the team has in guard Brandon Moore. Despite reports, he has not visited or been offered a deal. Another possibility could be wide receiver Kevin Walter.

What should the Cowboys do with Anthony Spencer?


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IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys will have talks this week regarding a long-term deal for Anthony Spencer, according to the player’s agent, Jordan Woy.

Spencer signed his one-year franchise tag tender last week, guaranteeing him at least $10.6 million in 2013. With a long-term deal, the Cowboys would be able to reduce that salary-cap figure and have the ability to sign players in free agency.

The Cowboys are only $177,005 under the salary cap and have had conversations with second-tier free agents such as linebacker Chase Blackburn, guard Matt Slauson and defensive end Amobi Okoye so far.

At the NFL scouting combine last month, owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Spencer’s asking price on a multi-year deal was more than the Cowboys were willing to pay, but so far in free agency the market for defensive ends has been largely underwhelming. Cliff Avril, considered the best available defensive end when free agency began, signed a two-year deal with Seattle worth a maximum of $15 million.

Ed Werder joins Galloway & Company to discuss what moves the Cowboys might still make in free agency and much more.

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Spencer, 29, will be making the move from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2013 as the Cowboys shift from the 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 under coordinator Monte Kiffin.

Spencer led the Cowboys with 106 tackles in 2012 to go along with a career-high 11 sacks and was a late addition to the Pro Bowl.
The first day of free agency is over and things will probably slow down a little on Day 2. With that, we review what we heard, saw and talked about Tuesday night and preview what could happen down the line.

Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the latest free-agency moves going on around the NFL.

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The loss of John Phillips: The Cowboys lost their backup tight end to the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday. Phillips was part of that dreadful 2009 class that produced very little for the Cowboys. Only free agent linebacker Victor Butler remains, and he's drawn interest from the New York Jets. Losing Phillips isn't a big deal because James Hanna has more upside as a solid pass-catching tight end. The Cowboys are in need of a blocking tight end, and this is where drafting someone in the late rounds could be important.

Chase Blackburn vs. Kevin Burnett: The Cowboys released backup inside linebacker Dan Connor because he refused to take a pay cut. The Cowboys are in the market for another one and like middle linebacker Blackburn, who started 15 games last season for the New York Giants at middle linebacker. He finished second on the Giants with 97 tackles and had eight tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. He also had three sacks and six pass breakups. If signed, Blackburn, an eight-year pro, would be a nice backup for Sean Lee at the inside linebacker spot. But what about Burnett? The former Cowboys linebacker was released by the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and might be a nice pickup to start at that vacant outside linebacker position. Burnett, who started 16 games for the Dolphins last season at one of the outside linebacker positions in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme, would like a return to Dallas. He was credited with 109 total tackles (second on the team), picked up 2 1/2 sacks, five tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. Who would you rather have, Blackburn or Burnett?

Martellus Bennett goes to Chicago: The tight end signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Chicago Bears. He's come a long way since his days in Dallas, when he fumed at times for not getting enough passes thrown his way. Bennett had an excellent season for the Giants and, while they wanted him to return, the Bears had a need at the position. One of the biggest problems with Bennett in Dallas was his lack of maturity and the Cowboys' inability to know how to use him. Bennett's career is summed up this way in Dallas: He caught four touchdown passes his rookie season (2008) and none the next three seasons. He caught five TD passes during his one year with the Giants. He's a good blocking tight end, something the Cowboys need, and he's athletic enough to make plays on the field. We'll see how Bennett does with Jay Cutler.

Jenkins and Jones drawing interest: Free agent cornerback Mike Jenkins and running back Felix Jones didn't have any visits the first day of free agency. But with the biggest day of this period over with, both are starting to draw interest. The former first-round picks, especially Jones, need to prove to NFL teams that they can stay healthy for an entire season and are willing to accept backup roles. It will be interesting to see if Jenkins, a former Pro Bowler, gets a two- or three-year contract to become a starter or maybe gets his role changed to possibly get snaps at safety, where he played some in 2012.

The good news: The Cowboys couldn't participate Tuesday because they have just $175,000 in cap space. Anthony Spencer signed his franchise tender, and the team can continue having talks with their defensive end about a long-term deal. Also, if the team can finalize a new long-term deal with Tony Romo, it'll lower his salary cap number from $16.8 million and open the door for the Cowboys to sign some second-tier free agents.

Cowboys look to second-tier FAs

March, 12, 2013
IRVING, Texas – On the first day of free agency last year the Cowboys flew Brandon Carr to town on Jerry Jones’ private plane and signed him to a mega deal.

So far on the first day of free agency this year the Cowboys have laid low, gauging interest on some mid-level free agents while other teams spend gratuitously.

According to sources, the Cowboys have some interest in Chicago defensive end Amobi Okoye, New York Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn and New York Jets guard Matt Slauson.

Okoye played in nine games last year with 11 tackles, two quarterback pressures and a sack for the Bears. If he joined the Cowboys he would reunite with his former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, the Cowboys’ defensive line coach.

The Cowboys were close to a training camp trade for Slauson last summer when they suffered a number of injuries but the sides never pulled the trigger. Like Okoye, he would reunite with a former coach in Bill Callahan, who was his line coach in New York.

The Cowboys had interest in Blackburn last year, but signed Dan Connor, who was cut on Monday, instead. In 15 starts for the Giants, Blackburn was credited with 97 tackles, eight tackles for loss and three sacks.

With only $177,000 of salary-cap room, the Cowboys would have to cut players or restructure more contracts in order to sign any free agents. They are hoping to sign quarterback Tony Romo to a new deal, which would create cap room, but nothing appear close. A long-term deal for Anthony Spencer would also create room but there have not been talks yet.

Free-agency series: Linebackers

March, 8, 2013
Eighth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:



Who will be the Cowboys' best linebacker next season?


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Who’s on the roster: Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Caleb McSurdy, Dan Connor, Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright, Orie Lemon

Analysis: In Lee and Carter, the Cowboys appear set at the Mike (middle) and Will (weakside) linebacker spots. However, both players are coming off injuries and must prove they can stay healthy. The Sam (strong side) is in question, but Albright looks to be the best in-house candidate. Wilber didn’t play much as a rookie but has athletic ability. Connor could be a cap casualty soon and Lemon might not be tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent. McSurdy is coming off an Achilles injury but could be an OK fit as a backup. Just based on numbers, the Cowboys will need to add some players here.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL free agents of interest: Ernie Sims, Chase Blackburn, Keith Rivers, Will Witherspoon, Geno Hayes

Need meter: 7. When the Cowboys ran the 3-4, they generally needed bigger linebackers to withstand more direct play with the offensive linemen. With the 4-3 that changes to a degree, with speed being a top priority. But, as with every position in free agency, don’t look for the Cowboys to spend a lot of money. Not with Lee entering the final year of his deal and Carter up the year after him. Sims played well after joining the Cowboys following Lee’s toe injury. Sims is a better fit for a 4-3 and would be a solid backup. The Cowboys had mild interest in Blackburn last year, and he did some nice things for the Giants.