At the end of last year's NFL draft, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones announced the signing of undrafted free agent guard Ronald Leary from Memphis. The Cowboys guaranteed $214,000 to Leary with the hope he would make the 53-man roster out of camp.
Leary didn't, instead playing on the practice squad for the bulk of the season until the Cowboys had to promote him to the 53-man roster after the Oakland Raiders put in a claim for him.
Leary improved as the season progressed and again has a shot to make the 53-man roster in 2013.
Fast-forward to this year when the Cowboys signed undrafted linebacker Brandon Magee over the weekend. Magee received a $70,000 signing bonus, more than any seventh-round pick from last year's draft.
The Cowboys were interested in drafting Magee in the middle rounds, but his size (5-foot-11, 229 pounds) and health (he injured his elbow in Arizona State's bowl game) made selecting him a risky proposition. However, the Cowboys were impressed with his 113 total tackles last season at Arizona State, which earned him second-team All-Pac-12 honors.
Magee is completely healthy, according to his agent, Blake Baratz, and looking forward to next week's rookie minicamp.
The Cowboys project Magee as a strongside or weakside linebacker because of his speed (4.68-second 40-yard dash at Arizona State's pro day) and ability to make plays on the ball.
Some NFL teams were a little scared off by Magee's baseball ambitions. The Boston Red Sox own his rights, but Magee's desire is to play in the NFL.
The Cowboys are looking for good fits in Monte Kiffin's 4-3 defense, and once they find someone, Jones will make sure he spends the money to grab him, much like he did with Leary.
This year's pet project, if you will, is Magee, who will have to play well on special teams and on the defense with the backup units to make the roster.