Dallas Cowboys: Jared Allen

Cowboys' front seven ranked last

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
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IRVING, Texas -- Last week, Pro Football Focus rated the Dallas Cowboys' roster at No. 18 in the league and that's in large part because of the projected starters on offense.

On defense, the only starter with a “good” tag is defensive tackle Henry Melton, and he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Three projected starters were listed as below average, and six were projected as average.

None of this is really new, but to show just how stacked it might seem against new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is this review of the Cowboys' front seven from Mike Tanier from Sports on Earth.

Tanier puts the Cowboys dead last in his front seven rankings.

Here's what he wrote:
32. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys lost DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and (in the saddest, most ridiculous minicamp story of the year) Sean Lee from a defense that allowed 2,056 rushing yards and recorded just 36 sacks last year. Henry Melton arrives as a younger, more system-suited replacement for Hatcher, but everything else is a shambles. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and DeVonte Holloman form the most anonymous linebacker corps in the league, and only Carter has any significant starting experience. Anthony Spencer may start the season on the PUP list as he battles back from microfracture surgery on his knee. And of course, the Cowboys are so cap-stressed that they wouldn't be able to sign a veteran reinforcement, even if one becomes available this late in the offseason.

The wisest thing the Cowboys could do is insert rookies Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens into the rotation quickly and let them learn on the job. The Cowboys did not get into this predicament by doing the wise thing. But they are so thin and talent-poor that they may not have a choice.

One quibble I would make is that they could have attempted to keep Ware, signed Jared Allen, Julius Peppers or pick a veteran in free agency if they wanted to by doing more poorly structured deals that affected their ability to do business in the future. They chose not to go that route and likely won't do it for a Lee replacement, be it either Jonathan Vilma or Brian Urlacher.

And if a veteran of some substance becomes available later, they could always find room by restructuring the contracts of Jason Witten or Brandon Carr. Money wouldn't be an issue, in my opinion.

Marinelli did a great job with the Bears in part because he had a younger and healthier Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Peppers and Melton in the front seven and solid role players such as Corey Wootton, Israel Idonije, Stephen Paea and Nick Roach.

From the looks of the Dallas defense right now, the Cowboys will be asking a lot of role players to play prominent parts, especially on the front seven. Marinelli has to turn a defense that is built on "maybes" and "hope so's" into one that can be competitive.
IRVING, Texas -- Don’t buy that Brian Urlacher, Jonathan Vilma or insert-veteran-linebacker-here jersey just yet.

Before the Dallas Cowboys look outside the building for MLB Sean Lee’s replacement, they want to see what Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman and Anthony Hitchens can do.

SportsNation

Which Cowboy has the best chance at replacing Sean Lee?

  •  
    30%
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    27%
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    43%

Discuss (Total votes: 10,200)

“We have some young guys we feel good about, so we want to give those guys every opportunity,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We have some veteran players who weren't completely healthy all last year, so we want to make sure they have an opportunity to work at some of those spots inside and just see who on our football team right now rises to the occasion. We've got to make sure we give them every opportunity. We’re always looking at the landscape of players -- free agents on the street, trade opportunities, anybody who we think can help our football team at any position. We’re always doing that. But we like the guys we have right now and the competition we have going.”

Durant took the first-team snaps at middle linebacker during Monday's organized team activities. He started one game at middle linebacker last year when Lee was out with a hamstring issue. Holloman started two games last year after Lee suffered a neck injury.

Garrett has yet to rule Lee out for the season, saying only that Lee has a “serious knee injury.” Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on May 27 in the first OTA. Garrett said the team is still developing a plan for Lee. The team generally waits a few weeks to perform a surgery so the swelling goes down.

In the offseason, the Cowboys cut veteran DE DeMarcus Ware and veteran WR Miles Austin and opted to not re-sign veteran DT Jason Hatcher. The Cowboys passed on free-agent DEs Jared Allen and Julius Peppers and did not look at veteran safeties.

Last year, the Cowboys signed offensive lineman Brian Waters the week before the season started. He had not played in 2012, but in 2013 he played in seven games for Dallas (with five starts) before he tore his triceps.

“If you look at our team, we have a really young roster,” Garrett said. “If you go position by position on both sides of the ball, there aren't many guys who have played that long in the National Football League, and we think that’s good. Some of our best players are guys that have been around a little bit, and we think that’s good, too. We’re always looking for a combination of veteran guys who have been around a little bit and younger guys who are developing into their prime, and then you have to have some role players, as well. You start with 90 and then you try to make the best decisions you can with the players you have. And then if there’s a reason to go outside at some point, you go ahead and do that.”

Cowboys offseason wrap-up

May, 22, 2014
May 22
10:00
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» NFC Wrap: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South » Grades

With free agency and the NFL draft in the rearview mirror and training camp just a couple months away, we assess the Dallas Cowboys' offseason moves.

Best move: The Cowboys could not make big splashes in free agency and their 8-8 record kept them in the middle of the pack in the draft as well, so the best move was not one regarding personnel. It was coaching. Elevating Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator after the Cowboys finished last in the league in 2013 was their best move. With the Chicago Bears, Marinelli had a difference-making defense that could create turnovers at will. He also had Pro Bowl-quality players such as Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. He does not have that in bountiful supply in Dallas, unless Sean Lee can stay healthy or Henry Melton returns to form from injury.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/Kevin TerrellWill the Dallas Cowboys regret not re-signing DeMarcus Ware?
Riskiest move: DeMarcus Ware put up 119 sacks with the Cowboys from 2005-13, but the club believed it was time to move on after Ware had just six in 2013. A quadriceps injury forced Ware to miss the first three games of his career in 2013 and he was slowed by other maladies. The Cowboys did not make an attempt to offer Ware a reduced contract and simply cut him. Within 24 hours he was signed to a three-year deal by the Denver Broncos with $20 million guaranteed. For this 4-3 scheme to work, there must be an accomplished right defensive end. The Cowboys believed Ware’s time as a dominant pass-rusher was over but did not pick up his replacement until the second round of the draft, selecting DeMarcus Lawrence.

Most surprising move: With the 16th pick in the first round, the Cowboys had a chance to select Johnny Manziel to be Tony Romo’s eventual successor. It seemed to be a perfect marriage of the attention Jerry Jones seeks and the spotlight Johnny Football enjoys. Jones passed on Manziel, recommitting his faith in Romo, who signed a six-year, $108 million extension last season, and making a smart move in picking up Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin. He will be a Day 1 starter and give the Cowboys three first-round picks on their offensive line, which will help Romo and potentially help a defense if the Cowboys can control the clock.

Numbers game: The emphasis of the Cowboys’ offseason has been about the defense, but they have taken a quantity-over-quality look. They had some interest in Peppers and Jared Allen after releasing Ware, but only at a reduced rate. The Cowboys signed Melton, who is coming off an ACL injury, to a one-year deal with an option for three more years if he plays at a high level. They signed Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to low-risk deals. They kept Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, on a one-year deal. They even signed Amobi Okoye, who did not play last season due to personal medical issues, in hopes a reunion with Marinelli will rejuvenate him. The flashiest addition might be Lawrence, and it is difficult to expect rookies to hit the league running.
IRVING, Texas -- What will determine a successful draft for the Dallas Cowboys?

The need for defense is obvious, so finding two or three players to make an immediate impact would be more than beneficial.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones, however, is looking at it differently.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesOwner Jerry Jones says the Cowboys won't let positional needs dictate their draft this weekend.
“I would hope we could find defensive players at the right value,” Jones said. “I would hope that we could. If we don't, that means there (was) some real value over on the offensive side of the ball and that could result in a heck of a draft. To say it another way: if you got somebody that shouldn't have been within 20 picks of you that was there and you add that value to the team -- and we have needs on the offensive side of the ball as well -- you could have a lot of success. There's no secret we've had a lot of attrition in our defensive front this year. What is obvious is if you want to start at the need, you can start right there. (But) we shouldn’t go overboard and be influenced to the point where we pass up great opportunity to have a great draft otherwise.”

The Cowboys took a sensible approach in free agency, eschewing the high-priced veterans like Jared Allen and Julius Peppers after letting DeMarcus Ware go and seeing Jason Hatcher leave. They added Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Henry Melton to team-friendly, low-risk deals. They re-signed Anthony Spencer to a one-year deal. They signed quarterback Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal with no guaranteed money.

Like all teams, the Cowboys would prefer to take the best player available.

“We certainly have needs, every team has needs,” coach Jason Garrett said. “It’s been mentioned here a number of times in this press conference that we’re going to look at the draft board and take the best players, guys that can help our football team. You target guys at certain positions, but the worst mistake you can make is over-drafting for need and leaving really, really good players on the board. We try to have discipline that way just like every team in this league does, and we’ll do that with our defensive front, all across our defense and throughout our team.”

If Zack Martin is the highest graded player, then they should take him at No. 16. Or if it’s a wide receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. or Marqise Lee, they should take either one. The same should hold true if it’s a quarterback.

It always sounds good to say you would take the best player available, but needs have to be filled. If grades are close, the Cowboys could lean defensively. Maybe they should lean defensively. They have 11 picks over the next three days. They will have plenty of chances after the first round to help the defense.

Most importantly, however, they need to find players that can help this year and in the future regardless of position.

Chat leftovers: Missing on best chance

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
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IRVING, Texas -- It's time for some leftovers from Wednesday's hour-long chat with you guys.

We had more than 120 questions posted during that time and it's impossible to handle all of them, so we'll choose five extra questions for the weekly "leftovers" post. Quick question for the house: Best leftover, pizza or Chinese food?

In the best player available strategy, I'm leaning toward pizza.

Anyway, away we go:

David Huffman. Connecticut: How many failed attempts at assembling a roster capable of playing good football deep into the postseason will it take for Jerry to say, "OK, I don't have the ability to properly evaluate the players I'm drafting and signing to this team?"

Jones
Jones
Todd Archer: I wouldn't hold your breath on this one, David. You might turn purple. But I will point out that the Cowboys had what was considered some of the best personnel in the game for a stretch from say 2007-10 and if Jerry is responsible for the state of the personnel right now, then he was responsible for the personnel then. And, yes, I realize Bill Parcells had a huge influence on the roster in those years, but he didn't get everything he wanted. As I see it, the problem is the Cowboys missed their window. They had pretty good shots in 2006-09 and won one playoff game. The one that hurts the most is the 2007 season. It was set up for them to take the NFC and they failed. Wade Phillips gave them the out late in the '07 season by letting up. The team did not react the right way, and I'm not talking about a trip to Cabo or anything like that. After the Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers that year they lost their momentum and couldn't get it back, losing to the Giants at home. If they win that game -- or the Seattle playoff game the previous year -- and I think a lot of these narratives that have come about are entirely different. Since the Cowboys missed that window, they have been chasing it ever since without success and the personnel has not been as good the last three or four years, despite the proclamations from those far away that the Cowboys have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. They haven't had that. They have had good 'name' players but spots 15-53 on the roster have been lacking.

Casey (Boise, ID): So what exactly are Callahan's duties with Linehan now in town? Will he have any influence with the play calling? Is he only in charge of the OL group? All the titles confuse me? Passing game coordinator but will call all the offensive plays???

Callahan
Todd Archer: Sorry I missed this one, Casey. This is a good question. Bill Callahan goes back to being the offensive line coach and run game coordinator, which is essentially what he was in 2012. He will give Scott Linehan options with running plays but make no mistake about it, Linehan will be calling the shots. The Cowboys will try to gloss over all of this of course and Callahan will publicly say all the right things, but how the Cowboys handled this maneuvering in the offseason is as baffling as how they handled the playcalling duties last offseason. They should have let Callahan go to Cleveland or Baltimore or wherever once the playcalling was taken away from him.

Nate (South Dakota): Any chance Jerry goes back to the past and brings in some more players from the '70s and '80s into the Ring of Honor? I would really like to see Charlie Waters, Harvey Martin, and maybe even Daryl Johnston in the Ring. Any chance?

Todd Archer: Nothing stirs the masses like the Ring of Honor. I like the two names you mentioned from the 1970s and I think Ed 'Too Tall' Jones has a case too. Charlie Waters and Harvey Martin were difference makers on the Super Bowl teams. Same with Too Tall. And he spanned the Jerry Era too. Daryl Johnston is a good name to consider as well, but the first guy from the '90s teams that I would add is Darren Woodson. He was a terrific player who was saddled with bad teams in the early 2000s and just as the Cowboys were about to turn it around his back gave out. Woodson would be right up there in my book. He should get Hall of Fame consideration too. Think about Woodson's impact this way: The Cowboys still haven't replaced him.

David (Southlake): Todd, given what Bears gave to Allen, shouldn't Cowboys have pursued him instead of Melton? Melton is coming off a major injury whereas Allen has a proven track record.

Allen
Todd Archer: You don't pay free agents based on track record. Jared Allen is 32. He has had a terrific career and might have a couple more great seasons left in him with the Chicago Bears, but that doesn't mean he would have been the right fit here. If the Cowboys weren't going to pay DeMarcus Ware, whom they knew best, or Julius Peppers, whom they knew quite well too, then they were not going to shell out money for Allen, who has no connections to the staff. It would have been the continuation of paying older players for what they have done, not what they will do. The Cowboys' plan this offseason has been simple: spend wisely on younger players, draft well in May and hope players in house make a ton of improvement. Will it work? I can't answer that question today, but that's the best way to go about it rather than hoping a thirtysomething has something left in the tank. Melton, who will probably make about $4 million this season, is just 27 and the Cowboys have a get-out-of-jail free card if he doesn't perform if they choose not to exercise the option. I'd be more willing to bet on a young player coming off an injury than an older player looking for a big pay day.

Shawn (NC Mountains): Given that Philly, Washington and Giants have made some impressive moves in free agency. Are the Cowboys the worst team in our division?

Todd Archer: If you want to give out trophies for offseason work that is less than a month old, then sure the Cowboys are the worst team in the division. But how many times have the Redskins won the Super Bowl in an offseason only to implode? What happened to the Eagles' dream team from a few years ago? I'm not picking the Cowboys to win the division or make the playoffs, but I'm not saying it's impossible either. There are a lot of moves left to make. The Cowboys have been the only team to compete for the NFC East title the last three seasons, so there is talent here. It just needs more supplementing before the games start in September. Maybe that's too optimistic of a view.

Insiders not high on Cowboys' work so far

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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IRVING, Texas -- The guys over on ESPN Insiders are not fans Insider of what the Dallas Cowboys have -- or have not -- done in free agency so far this offseason, giving them a D grade.

The only team with a worse grade is the Oakland Raiders, who earned an F.

The grade had more to do with the losses of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Miles Austin, than the signings of Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Brandon Weeden. I understand that line of thinking. I don’t know how the Cowboys can expect Melton, who is coming back from a torn ACL, and Mincey (or any combination of the defensive ends on the roster) to be better than Hatcher and Ware.

But where I disagree to an extent is how much the cap held them back.

The Cowboys could have restructured Ware’s deal without any problem. They could have fit Hatcher’s deal under the cap. They could have signed Julius Peppers or Jared Allen once Ware left. They could have signed just about anybody they wanted.

To me, they chose not to. They chose to get out of the game where they pushed more money into the future. They chose to not pay thirtysomethings large amounts of cash.

So what I wonder is if the Cowboys did those things with Ware and Hatcher or signed a Peppers or an Allen, wouldn’t the argument have been the Cowboys are doing the same old thing?

If the grade is about the personnel, then I can understand it, but it’s too easy to just pick apart the cap mismanagement as a reason why they didn’t (or haven’t) gone after higher-priced free agents.

No surprise Cowboys didn't land Allen

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
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IRVING, Texas -- That Jared Allen did not end up with the Dallas Cowboys is not a surprise.

If the Cowboys were not going to make a sizeable investment in DeMarcus Ware, and they did not make a sizeable investment in Julius Peppers, then they were not going to do the same for Allen, who has 128.5 sacks in his career.

The Cowboys knew Ware better than anybody. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli had insider knowledge on Peppers from their time together with the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys got to know Allen on a free-agent visit, but the hope was he would come in at their price, not at the price the Bears have paid.

Allen could receive up to $32 million on the four-year deal with the Bears, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, which includes $15.5 million in guaranteed money.

The Cowboys could have done a deal like that just as they could have done it for Ware or Peppers, but they want to hold the line on signing aging players to big-money deals. The big-money deal they gave Henry Melton last week is really a one-year, $3.5 million deal that could become a four-year, $29.5 million deal if he hits on all of his incentives. Melton is only 27.

There is no doubt Allen would have filled a need. The Cowboys do not have a right defensive end of note on the roster yet. They have what looks to be serviceable left defensive ends in George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey and Tyrone Crawford. They could play on the right side if needed, but the Cowboys could look in the draft for the more athletic, prototypical right defensive end.

If they can’t, they will throw numbers at the position and hope that eases the loss of Ware and the non-signings of Peppers and Allen.

Time will tell if the Cowboys are employing the right strategy, but at least they are sticking to their plan.

Cowboys open to signing older players

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Cowboys let two starting defensive linemen go in free agency -- DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher -- who will each be 32 years of age when the 2014 season starts in September.

There's a thought that the Cowboys moved on from extending the contracts of players in their 30s.

With Ware and Hatcher gone, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen as replacements: Henry Melton (27), Terrell McClain (25) and Jeremy Mincey (30).

"I think we've been efficient, and, obviously, up front was a focus because of the unfortunate things we’ve had happen there last season," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "We obviously decided to make some changes there so we brought in some people to fill some holes. But we'll continue to look at that and obviously keep an eye on it in the draft as well. But it allows us not to force the issue with the moves we’ve made."

Jones said the Cowboys are open to signing players in their 30s but it has to make good financial sense. During the free-agency period, the team expressed interest in 34-year old defensive end Julius Peppers before signing Melton and brought 32-year old defensive end Jared Allen to Valley Ranch for a visit.

Peppers signed a three-year deal with the Green Bay Packers and Allen has yet to sign a deal.

Jones said it's difficult to make decisions on good players who are in their 30s. Ware, for instance, was coming off a six-sack season, the first time he finished with fewer than 11 sacks since his rookie year. Ware also missed three games with a quad injury, the first of his career, and he was either limited or missed practice for an assortment of health issues.

The Cowboys had to look at whether Ware's decline was based on health or age. The team offered Ware a pay cut and he declined, so the team released him and 24 hours later he signed with Denver.

The Cowboys gave contract extensions to defensive tackle Jay Ratliff and left tackle Flozell Adams when the pair were in their 30s and each player was released before his contract expired.

"It's always hard. Historically we've obviously been that way but we’ve obviously been bit by it," Jones said. "So we took a long hard look at that and made some decisions not to go in that direction this time."

Asked about signing a player in his 30s again, Jones said, "We wouldn’t rule it out. I think each situation stands on its own."

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

March, 21, 2014
Mar 21
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IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it, we discuss where the Cowboys go next in free agency after signing Henry Melton, Melton's future and if this team needs to build around their younger players. Here's a hint: they are.

Part 2 will be delivered on Saturday. If you have questions, send them to me via Twitter (@toddarcher) and use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go:

 

Chat recap: Wondering about Jerry's role

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
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IRVING, Texas -- We had a spirited chat Wednesday that you can check out here.

In it we discussed a lot of Dallas Cowboys subjects and even my Final Four pick, as well as:

One question stood out among the very good questions:

Jerry (Stuttgart Germany): Does Jerry Jones finally get it as a GM? He has been acting like one for almost 8 days now.

Todd Archer: It's been something of a change, hasn't it? The job is not over by any stretch. I applaud them for their fiscal responsibility but they need to find more players. And I also think we tend to over-dramatize Jerry's role as a GM. He's not a GM the way Howie Roseman is a GM. He's not pouring over tape to see players. He's a manager of the people who report to him and he makes the final call.

If I can go on in a little more detail here ...

Since the day he bought the team Jones has carried the general manager tag. There will always be a Jerry-Jimmy fight with those saying the success of the Cowboys in the 1990s was the sole responsibility of Jimmy Johnson. There can be no winner, so that debate often goes the same way as all the talk about Jerry the owner needing to fire Jerry the general manager. It's not happening.

Like I said, Jones is not a GM the way most guys who have that title are GMs. He is not going to pro days. He is not studying the third-team tackles in training camp.

But you do have to wonder if Stephen Jones is gaining more traction as the football voice with the Cowboys with how the team has operated this offseason. The Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware, which was a hugely difficult decision for Jerry Jones because of all that Ware has done for the team and for Jones. But it was the right call, considering the salary-cap implications had Ware stayed or if his contract had been restructured.

So far the Cowboys have spent efficiently in free agency, which is what Stephen Jones declared in February at the NFL scouting combine. The Melton deal is essentially a one-year deal for $3.5 million. Melton needs to do things he has never done in his career to get the total $1.5 million in incentives to max out his first-year money.

That's a good buy in free agency for a young player with a Pro Bowl to his credit even though he is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The other deals for Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Weeden have been economical as well.

I wonder if the days of the Cowboys signing free agents to a contract like Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million) are over. If they are, then you know Stephen Jones' influence has really grown.

Jared Allen option not likely now

March, 19, 2014
Mar 19
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Allen
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for defensive line help is not over with the addition of Henry Melton, but their push for Jared Allen will not be quite as intense, according to sources.

Allen wrapped up a visit with the Cowboys on Tuesday before they agreed to a deal with Melton.

Allen would be the Cowboys’ best defensive end, but at what price? He has had seven straight seasons with at least 11 sacks, but he turns 32 in April and the Cowboys were not willing to pay a hefty price for DeMarcus Ware or Julius Peppers.

With Ware and Jason Hatcher gone, George Selvie is the leading returning sacker from 2013 with seven. Jeremy Mincey, who signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $4.5 million last week, had two sacks with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos in 2013. Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, Bruce Carter and Orlando Scandrick had two sacks apiece for the Cowboys.

Allen has also visited with the Seattle Seahawks.

Rod Marinelli a difference-maker

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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IRVING, Texas -- In Rod Marinelli, the Dallas Cowboys believe they have one of the best assistant coaches in the NFL.

He might be a pretty good recruiter, too.

The Cowboys' ability to land free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton was a lot about the contract, a lot about Melton possibly wanting to play at home and a lot about Marinelli.

Marinelli
Melton
"I'm excited to come back home and work with Rod [Marinelli] and get back to my Pro Bowl form," Melton told ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins.

Melton developed into a Pro Bowl defensive tackle under Marinelli with the Chicago Bears from 2010-12. Melton had 15.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl after a six-sack season in 2012. He also had 71 tackles and nine tackles for loss with Marinelli as his mentor.

He might talk softly, but Marinelli has a way of forging relationships with defensive linemen. He did it with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He did it with Melton and Julius Peppers with the Bears. He did it with Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys were forced to use 20 defensive linemen in 2013 and were one game away from making the playoffs. Marinelli was able to make it work to a certain degree with guys such as George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Jarius Wynn, Corvey Irvin and Frank Kearse.

He never had Jay Ratliff or Tyrone Crawford. He had Anthony Spencer for 34 snaps in one game. He was without Ware for three games and Hatcher for one.

Melton becomes the third defensive linemen to join the Cowboys as a free agent. Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain signed with the Cowboys last week.

Mincey was unable to meet face to face with Marinelli because of the coach’s schedule, but they were able to talk on the phone. Mincey was coached with the Jacksonville Jaguars by Joe Cullen, who coached under Marinelli with the Detroit Lions.

"Genuine and a believer," Mincey said last week. "He believes in what I believe: going out there and giving your all and trusting the process and seeing what happens. You never know what’s going to happen, especially with a bunch of guys who are hungry, who are dedicated and motivated for a larger purpose."

The job is not over. The Cowboys concluded a visit with Jared Allen on Tuesday, and the veteran could be the next one added to the Marinelli mix.

Cowboys holding their line in free agency

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
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IRVING, Texas -- Last week, Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones was praised for making the difficult decision to release DeMarcus Ware.

For all that Ware accomplished (team's all-time sack leader) and for all that he meant to Jones, the owner stuck to the disciplined outline the Cowboys are operating under in 2014.

Melton
So now that Henry Melton and Jared Allen have come and gone from Valley Ranch, you can't blame Jones for not being willing to spend big bucks on somebody he just met.

If he was "right" in deciding to part ways with Ware -- for the record, I think it was the wrong move and would have signed him to a re-worked deal although not at the level the Denver Broncos paid Ware -- then at least he is being consistent by not giving into the contractual demands of Melton and Allen.

At least for now.

We'll find out this season if Jones was "right" in holding strong if they don't end up joining the Cowboys and go to another team and either play well or they don't play well.

Allen
Melton is off to his fourth team on his free-agency tour with the St. Louis Rams. He also met with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. Allen has also met with the Seahawks.

Generally speaking, the more visits a player makes the more it means he is not getting the deal he wants. It is well within the player's rights to shop for the best deal on the open market. Jason Hatcher met with the Seahawks, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. The one team he didn't meet with face to face, the Washington Redskins, made the best offer that even Hatcher said blew the other offers out of the water.

At the NFL scouting combine, executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys would be efficient spenders in free agency. Giving Melton, who is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the moon, and Allen, who turns 32 next month, the stars would not be efficient spending.

When a team acts desperately in free agency, they tend to make a mistake. One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys made was inking La'Roi Glover in 2002. One of the least productive was signing Marcellus Wiley to a four-year, $16 million deal in 2004. He produced three sacks, but the Cowboys had to have him.

In 2012, the Cowboys recruited Brandon Carr, Nate Livings, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Dan Connor and Kyle Orton in free agency. They were closers. They used the digital board to show the team's history and most of the players' highlights to help close the deal. They also paid an awful lot of money for them.

The Cowboys weren't able to close the deals for Melton and Allen on their visits, but that doesn't mean they won't sign them eventually.

And if they do, then it likely won't be for the stars or the moon.

Free-agency review: Cowboys

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
10:56
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» NFC Free-Agency Review | AFC Free-Agency Review

Most significant signing: It has been a slow start to free agency, but defensive end Jeremy Mincey offers the most hope for at least right now as the Cowboys negotiate with Henry Melton and Jared Allen. He signed a two-year deal worth a maximum of $4.5 million and has the ability to play all across the defensive line in passing situations. It’s hard to call the additions of defensive tackle Terrell McClain and quarterback Brandon Weeden significant additions.

[+] EnlargeCowboys' DeMarcus Ware
AP Photo/LM OteroDeMarcus Ware is the Dallas Cowboys' all-time leader in sacks.
Most significant loss: DeMarcus Ware had only six sacks in 2013 and Jason Hatcher led the Cowboys with 11. Both are now gone. The Cowboys released Ware, who has since signed with the Denver Broncos, and Hatcher signed a four-year, $27.5 million deal with the Washington Redskins. Because of what Ware meant to the team for so long -- he is the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks -- he is the more significant loss. Hatcher had one year with more than 4.5 sacks. In a down year, Ware had six. The Broncos are betting Ware has plenty left in the tank by guaranteeing him $20 million over the next three years.

Biggest surprise: It is not really a surprise the Cowboys lost Hatcher, even if it is to a division rival. What is a surprise -- at least so far -- is that the Cowboys have maintained the discipline financially. They were not going to pay Ware or Hatcher the kind of money they received on the market. They were not going to pay Julius Peppers what he got from the Green Bay Packers. What in the name of Jerry Jones is going on around here? Of course, all that could change if they shell out big cash for Melton or Allen.

What’s next? The Cowboys know they must address their defensive line, but it looks as if they will do it at their price. It might cost them in the short run, but help in them in the long run when it comes to being in good shape in the future against the cap. They would like Melton and/or Allen, but if they were not going to go crazy for Ware and Hatcher, they can’t go crazy for those two. As free agency wears on they could look for help at wide receiver or safety, but they will spend most of their time getting ready for the draft.

Henry Melton off to visit St. Louis

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:54
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Henry Melton's visit with the Dallas Cowboys has ended and the free-agent defensive tackle is off to visit the St. Louis Rams, according to a source.

Melton
From all accounts, Melton's visit went well. According to sources, the medical checkup on his surgically-repaired knee came back fine, and he was able to re-connect with the coach that developed him into a Pro Bowler with the Chicago Bears, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Melton has visited with the Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings since free agency started. Talks with the teams will continue as Melton looks for his next home.

The Cowboys will continue meeting with free-agent defensive end Jared Allen, who arrived in Dallas Monday night and met with coach Jason Garrett and several assistants.

The Cowboys are looking for defensive line help, but so far in free agency have maintained a disciplined approach despite the release of DeMarcus Ware and the loss of Jason Hatcher. Ware has since signed with the Denver Broncos and Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins.

The Cowboys have roughly $7.6 million in salary cap space. Depending on the structure and lengths of deals, they may need to come up with more cap room by either restructuring or releasing players.

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