Cowboys: Football Outsiders
He's got a few with some Cowboys ties with cornerback Larry Brown going to Oakland and Alvin Harper signing with Tampa Bay.
It got us thinking about the worst free agent signings in Cowboys history and came up with these five:
5. Eddie George. He was past his prime when the Cowboys signed the running back to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. George was a four-time Pro Bowler, but he didn't play like one the last few years before signing with Dallas. He rushed for just 432 yards with four touchdowns in the 2004 season, which would be his only season with the Cowboys. The Cowboys expected more George at age 31, but it was clear he wasn't the same player who rushed for 1,509 yards in 2000 with the Tennessee Titans.
4. Marco Rivera. The guard inked a five-year $20 million contract and a few weeks after signing the deal injured his back while working out on a treadmill. Rivera offered to give some of the contract back, but it was too late. Rivera played only two seasons. He hurt his back again, in the playoff loss to Seattle in the 2006 seaso,n and needed help to get onto the team plane afterward. Rivera was released after that.
3. Bryant Westbrook. You had to wonder what Jerry Jones was thinking after signing Westbrook to a one-year, $1 million deal. The cornerback struggled in his first game, a loss to the newly formed Houston Texans, and was angry because he was benched by then-coach Dave Campo. The Cowboys cut Westbrook after the Texans game and he signed with Green Bay in the 2002 season, playing in six games. But Westbrook would never play in the league again after that.
2. Tony Banks. This deal didn't cost the Cowboys a ton of money -- he signed a one-year deal worth $500,000 -- but he struggled from the moment he got to training camp. He was expected to be a stopgap until the team could find a franchise quarterback after Troy Aikman retired. But Banks was sent home on August 15, 2001. The Cowboys replaced Banks with Quincy Carter.
1. Mike Vanderjagt. The Cowboys wanted a veteran kicker to help Bill Parcells move this team to the next level for the 2006 season. Vanderjagt signed the largest contract ever for a kicker in franchise history, three years at $5.4 million. Vanderjagt said he was the most accurate kicker in league history -- and he was percentage-wise -- but he struggled in training camp and it carried over into the season. In 10 games, he went 13-for-18 on field goals, 1-for-3 in his last two weeks, including two misses vs. his former team, the Indianapolis Colts. He was let go after 10 games and never played in another NFL game.
FO released it's best and worst players from the 2010 season and one thing we noticed was the tight end position. You have to be a ESPN Insider to get the info.
Antonio Gates was considered the best tight end in the game and Jason Witten was the third best. Witten led tight ends in catches (94) and yards (1,002) and was second with nine touchdowns.
Here's what FO said about the tight end position: "Gates managed to lead all tight ends by a wide margin despite suffering from agonizing injuries on both of his feet throughout the year. His 79.5 percent DVOA is easily the best for any tight end during the DVOA Era (1993-2010), and he even finished with more DYAR than he did during last year's fantastic season. He did all this on 65 targets! He had 155 more DYAR than Jason Witten -- who had a great year -- in one-half of the targets."
So what is DVOA? The short version from FO: Is a method of evaluating teams, units, or players. It takes every single play during the NFL season and compares each one to a league-average baseline based on situation.
And what is DYAR? It's another formula that measures yards above replacement of the league average.
So the top tight ends are:
Gates, San Diego Chargers: 371 DYAR
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: 249 DYAR
Witten, Dallas Cowboys: 216 DYAR
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers: 207 DYAR
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots: 160 DYAR
What about the bottom 5.
Daniel Graham, Denver Broncos: -133 DYAR
John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks: -94 DYAR
Dante Rosario, Carolina Panthers: -79 DYAR
Stephen Spach, Arizona Cardinals: -55 DYAR
Martellus Bennett, Dallas Cowboys: -53 DYAR
It doesn't mention Bennett in its breakdown, but Bennett did get better as a receiver and route runner but did have a few drops and some busted routes that concerned us. It's not the first time a receiver or tight end has done it, but for a guy like Bennett trying to get more playing time and someone who will be watched closely when John Phillips returns from knee surgery, he can't afford a lot of mistakes.
That doesn’t mean Cowboys fans will like the 2010 edition.
Football Outsiders projects the Cowboys to have 7.5 wins this season. Put those parade plans in Arlington on hold, huh?
Football Outsiders managing editor Bill Barnwell will explain how the heck the defending NFC East champions could be considered a below-average bunch and offer his take on four other pertinent Cowboys questions.
A lot of folks see the Cowboys as Super Bowl contenders. Football Outsiders projects them to be a sub-.500 team. Do your statistical formulas have an anti-Cowboys bias or what?
Barnwell: Ha. I feel like we're back in 2008 all over again.
I think that there are a few things our prediction system suggests about the Cowboys that are worth discussing.
1) They're unlikely to be this healthy from year to year. This is something we brought up in 2008 that ended up being pretty key to Dallas's system. Then, Tony Romo got hurt. Last year, DeMarcus Ware had that really nasty sprained neck, but the Cowboys doctors were able to amazingly get him back on the field six days later for the Saturday night game against the Saints that he just took over. I'm happy Ware was able to come back so quickly -- it's never good to see someone down on the field the way he was -- but the margin of error there is pretty slim. The Cowboys are a top-heavy team, and avoiding injuries to their stars is a dance they have to do each year.
2) They have an extremely old offensive line, even with the arrival of Doug Free at left tackle. Old offensive lines like that tend to collapse, with a combination of injury and decline in performance. Free, although he's looked good in training camp, is also a question mark. (Then again, so was Flozell Adams.)
3) We're expecting the Redskins and Giants to play better in 2010, especially Washington. That makes Dallas's schedule more difficult.
There are some positive factors for Dallas as well; namely, their third-down defense was miserable last year (25th in the league in DVOA, as opposed to fifth on first down and 15th on second down), and that's a classic indicator of something that will improve in the subsequent season.
We've got the Cowboys down for 7.5 wins. I anecdotally think that's a little low, but I think the NFC East comes down to who stays healthiest and who wins those division games. That can come down to a fumble recovery at the right time.
Football Outsiders saw Miles Austin coming. Well, sort of: He was No. 1 last year on your list of potential breakout players who had never been starters. What do you project for his encore after he emerged as a Pro Bowler?
Barnwell: Heh. We said last year that Miles Austin was really talented and had Pro Bowl potential ... but I don't think even we would have suggested that Austin was going to make the Pro Bowl in 2010. He deserved it, though, and it's remarkable that the Cowboys have been able to churn two Pro Bowlers -- Austin and Jay Ratliff -- off of the bottom of their roster.
Our projection system has him at 63 catches for 970 yards and 7 TD; again, I think that seems a little low, but there are things you have to consider with Austin. As great as he was after the catch last year, even the league's best receivers don't produce that much YAC from year-to-year. He'll still be good after he gets the ball in his hands...just not THAT good. He's also struggled with injuries as a pro, and while he was injured in camp last year, he was healthy once he got into the starting lineup.
The Dallas offensive line, especially Pro Bowlers Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis, took a lot of heat around here this offseason. Do your numbers justify that?
Barnwell: I don't think that's totally fair. Dallas was third in Adjusted Line Yards last season, which is our stat that measures an offensive line's ability to clear consistent holes for a back to gain solid yardage from play to play. The one place that I can say they really did struggle is in power situations, which we define as runs with two yards to go or fewer on third or fourth down, as well as all other runs from inside the opposition's two-yard line. Dallas only converted 58 percent of those, which was 26th in the league.
How close is Mike Jenkins to being an elite cornerback?
Barnwell: Funny what a year can do for a guy! We had Jenkins as 15th in the league in our Yards per Attempt metric, and he was 36th in Success Rate, which measures how frequently passes in a player's direction pushed the offense towards a first down. Not exactly Darrelle Revis, but good numbers for a guy in his second year. He broke up 18 passes, which is one of the reasons why he got a lot of hype last year, but I think he's playing at a reasonably high level already.
What’s the biggest weakness you see for the Cowboys?
Barnwell: I think you have to say safety, no? I certainly think that Jenkins and Terence Newman make for a good combination of cornerbacks, but I just see DeSean Jackson having a field day against Dallas downfield at some point this year.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.
Play Podcast Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit and you won't believe who he says is the Cowboys' best player.
Play Podcast Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.
Play Podcast Glenn "Stretch" Smith and Matt Mosley talk about their time at Day 2 of Cowboys minicamp and discuss Monte Kiffin's defensive principles and his growing relationship with the players.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.
Play Podcast ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss how Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and others spend lots of time with their receivers and if it matters that Tony Romo is not participating in OTAs.
Play Podcast Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he's looking for during the third session of OTAs, a potential Sean Lee contract extension and why people underestimate Miles Austin's value.