Dallas Cowboys: Abram Elam

Safety track record not good for Cowboys

March, 5, 2013
IRVING, Texas – After the Cowboys released Gerald Sensabaugh on Monday, I wrote that the move was risky, considering the Cowboys do not have a known commodity currently under contract.

Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the Cowboys putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer and releasing Gerald Sensabaugh.

Listen Listen
After checking out the comments section, I soon realized Sensabaugh was the worst safety in NFL history and was responsible for the current sequester. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I believe Sensabaugh is solid. Great? No. Good enough? Sure.

Another reason why the move is risky is that the Cowboys have not been able to find a long-term safety since Darren Woodson.

And everybody believes the Cowboys struggle to identify quality offensive linemen?

Roy Williams had a good run for a few years but then tailed off badly. Ken Hamlin had one good season with the Cowboys, signed a big contract and then didn’t seem to like playing much again. Keith Davis was a special teamer turned starter out of necessity. At the prices the Cowboys paid Sensabaugh, I think they did OK with him for four years. Abram Elam lasted one season as a starter, which is better than Brodney Pool, who didn’t last a week in training camp.

(UPDATE: The original version forgot Lynn Scott, an undrafted player in 2001 that the Cowboys had hopes for early.)

Since 2001, the Cowboys have drafted nine safeties and the best has been Williams, and he was the eighth overall pick in 2002. People will remind you that Ed Reed is a Hall of Famer and went later to Baltimore. Tony Dixon (second, 2001) never panned out. Justin Beriault (sixth, 2006) was hurt and never played.

Pat Watkins (fifth, 2006) was tall and an OK special teamer. Alan Ball (seventh, 2007) was drafted as a corner, became a forgettable starter at safety and moved back to cornerback. Mike Hamlin and DeAngelo Smith were fifth-rounders in the forgettable 2009 draft and didn’t make an impact. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah (fourth, 2010) was hurt when drafted, came from a small school and made switch from corner to safety – and never made an impact.

Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted players in 2010 that have made an impact. But Church, as close to an incumbent the Cowboys have at the position, is coming off an Achilles tear, and McCray showed he’s a special-teamer with the more work he got on defense last season.

Matt Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year and never played a snap because of recurring hamstring injuries. Judgment should be withheld until he actually gets on the field, but let’s just say history is not on his side.

The Cowboys needed to look at the safety spot before Sensabaugh’s release and now they must really look at it.

But do you trust they will find the right safety even in a draft that is considered rich at the position?

NFL scouting combine primer: Dallas Cowboys

February, 19, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Last week the Cowboys coaches and front office met to discuss the personnel on the roster and players who could leave, such as Anthony Spencer. This week the Cowboys head to the NFL scouting combine to begin in earnest the search for new players.

Ben and Skin discuss the hypothetical idea of trading Tony Romo, as outrageous as it sounds, and what impact it would have.

Listen Listen
The Cowboys will get the chance to meet officially with 60 players during interviews that last 15 minutes apiece. They will hold informal discussions with other players, as well.

The two most important parts of the combine are the interviews and the medical information, with all of the players taking physicals.

The most talked about part of the combine -- and often the most overrated -- will be the workouts. Drills don’t really mean the guy can play (or can’t play) on Sundays.

The Cowboys' needs are pretty clear: Offensive and defensive line, safety, linebacker, cornerback, tight end and wide receiver.

With a sticky salary cap situation, the Cowboys must draft well. The drafts the last three years have been better (Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Sean Lissemore, Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, DeMarco Murray, Dwayne Harris, Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford, James Hanna), but they don’t make up for the poor ones from 2007-09.

The Cowboys have six picks in the April draft, having dealt their seventh-round pick to Miami for center Ryan Cook. They are not expecting a compensatory pick for losing Laurent Robinson, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Abram Elam in free agency.

For the Cowboys to get over the 8-8 hump, they must win the draft. That’s why the combine matters so much.

Could Saints make run at Anthony Spencer?

February, 6, 2013
IRVING, Texas – With Rob Ryan at least in the mix to be New Orleans' next defensive coordinator -- if he's not already the guy -- let’s play a game of connect the dots involving Anthony Spencer.

[+] EnlargeRob Ryan
AP Photo/James D SmithAnthony Spencer would seem like a logical fit to run Rob Ryan's defense in New Orleans.
The Saints are moving to the 3-4 scheme with or without Ryan as coordinator, which would make Spencer an attractive free-agent fit anyway. By adding Ryan to the mix, the Saints would be an even more likely destination for Spencer, who had his best season under Ryan.

Look at Ryan’s run with the Cowboys as an example. In 2011, the Cowboys signed Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam, in part because of their pasts with Ryan in Cleveland. In 2012, the Cowboys signed Brodney Pool, who played for Ryan but lasted just a week or so into training camp.

By reconnecting with Spencer in New Orleans, Ryan would have somebody with experience running his defense. He would also have the best available outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Spencer had a career-high 11 sacks and was a late add to the Pro Bowl after leading the Cowboys in tackles.

The Cowboys want to keep Spencer, but they might not have the salary cap wherewithal to keep him with a long-term deal. They could place the franchise tag on him for a second straight year at a cost of $10.6 million and could be open to making a trade for picks.

Barry Church ready to start

August, 6, 2012

OXNARD, Calif. -- With the Dallas Cowboys releasing safety Brodney Pool on Monday morning, it opened the door for Barry Church to become the starter.

Signing Pool was designed to create competition at the position and during offseason workouts. Church was a reserve. But after Pool failed his conditioning test to start training camp, Church received the majority of the first-team snaps.

"Just for them to release him kinda shows me they have a little confidence in me and a little confidence in my game," Church said Monday. "So I'm just going to go out there and keep trying to produce at a high level and hopefully I'll be a starter Sept. 5."

Church was surprised the team signed Pool because he figured younger players would compete for the job. But Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was familiar with Pool, having coached him in Cleveland. The Cowboys used veteran safeties, Abram Elam and Ken Hamlin, to pair with Gerald Sensabaugh in the past.

In 2010, the Cowboys moved Alan Ball to the safety spot but it didn't work out well.

"It was a little surprising to me at the beginning," Church said. "But I just knew they wanted competition at that safety (position) to bring out the best in both of us and that’s what it did. I felt it brought out the best in my game and here I am now taking the first-team reps and hopefully I can continue at that."

To improve his game, Church worked with tight end Jason Witten and Sensabaugh. Church wanted to improve his pass coverage skills. He was good as an in-the-box safety, but with more teams passing, Church needed to work on covering tight ends and running backs.

Church worked on getting his hands placed the right way on receivers and recognizing routes.

"It's been great learning from Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh in the offseason," Church said. "That’s who I worked with to fine-tune my talents in the offseason, especially in my man coverage skills. (Sensabaugh) helped me out a lot with that. Working on tight end releases and working with Jason Witten one-on-one in the offseason helped me fine-tune my craft and I felt like my tackling was down. In the box, things were pretty good, just the deep part of the field, working with Gerald in the offseason helped me take my game to another level."

Barry Church hopes to stop revolving door

July, 31, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. -- For the fourth straight year, Gerald Sensabaugh will have a different partner as one of the Cowboys’ two starting safeties.

In 2009, Sensabaugh was paired with Ken Hamlin. In 2010, it was Alan Ball. Last year it was Abram Elam.

And now it’s … Barry Church.

“I’m definitely trying to stick around longer than one year,” Church said. “We’ll see what happens, though.”

Church is not a lock to be the starter for the Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants but with Brodney Pool unable to finish the conditioning test and Matt Johnson working back from a hamstring injury, Church is getting the first look.

Church has started one game in his two seasons but spent most of last season playing in substitution packages, including spending some time at inside linebacker.

“I feel like my versatility was a big key for me getting in the packages I was in,” Church said.

Now he spends most of his time at safety, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme is not a true free/strong safety combination.

“It’s more of right and left,” Church said. “They want us to learn both, but the strong safety is more likely to go down and be the thumper in the running game and the free safety will be back deep. But with motions happening and reloads, you’ve got to be able to play both positions.”

Surgery could slow Gerald Sensabaugh

July, 16, 2012
IRVING, Texas – Safety Gerald Sensabaugh had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee recently, which could keep him off the practice field when the Dallas Cowboys open training camp in Oxnard, Calif., in two weeks, according to sources.

Sensabaugh missed several organized team activity workouts and the mid-June minicamp. Coach Jason Garrett said the decision to sit Sensabaugh was more of a precaution. When the knee continued to bother Sensabaugh, it was decided to go in for a cleanup.

Sensabaugh will be able to report for rehab only on July 25 at Valley Ranch when rookies, first-year players and quarterbacks practice at Valley Ranch. The hope is Sensabaugh can take part in the Cowboys’ first full-squad practice in Oxnard on July 30, but the team will be cautious.

Sensabaugh could be the only returning starter from the secondary in 2011 with the additions of cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne in free agency and the draft. Brodney Pool, Barry Church and Matt Johnson are expected to compete for the other safety spot, which was held by Abram Elam last year.

Signed to a five-year extension last December, Sensabaugh has missed one game in three years with the Cowboys. He finished third on the team with 77 tackles last season to go along with two interceptions, four pass deflections, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two quarterback pressures.

Position series: Cowboys safeties

July, 5, 2012
We have been looking at safeties today in our continuing, occasional position-by-position look at each of the teams in the NFC East, and the day concludes with an examination of the Dallas Cowboys' safeties.

Projected starters: Brodney Pool, Gerald Sensabaugh

Reserves: Barry Church, Matt Johnson, Danny McCray, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah

Potential strength: This is a problem position for the Cowboys, plain and simple. But Sensabaugh played pretty well overall for the Cowboys in 2011, and the upgrades at cornerback this year should allow him to roam a little more freely and make more plays. He had five interceptions and 10 pass break-ups in 2010, but those numbers dropped to two and three, respectively, in the first year under Rob Ryan. He's one of many players the team hopes will benefit from the additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne at cornerback.

Potential weakness: They haven't done much to try and replace Abram Elam, who was a bit of a letdown in his one and only season in Dallas. They signed Pool, who played for Ryan in Cleveland, but his spot is anything but secure. He could get a challenge from Church or from fourth-round pick Johnson, whose reputation as a big-time college playmaker convinced the Cowboys to select him well ahead of his consensus projected draft slot. The Cowboys' defense really craves that playmaking type, and it's possible that whoever looks the most active and disruptive in camp and in preseason games could get the start, which could make Pool a late cut.

Keep an eye on: Church. He's impressed first-year secondary coach Jerome Henderson, and he showed a lot of physical ability at the line of scrimmage when he played last year. Pool was signed because the team believed it had a need at that position, but Church could play well enough in training camp to convince them they were wrong about that. Again, his coverage deficiencies are what they are, but the corners are supposed to cover better this year and what the Cowboys want to see out of their safeties is game-changing ability.

Does Brodney Pool make Cowboys' roster?

June, 21, 2012
I was soliciting ideas in the comments section on the Breakfast Links post, and Cazzi Pro asked about the Dallas Cowboys' safeties, so sure. Why not?

Cazzi's question was rooted in the work my friends over at ESPNDallas.com have been doing with ridiculously early roster projections. Todd Archer is predicting that the Cowboys carry only four safeties, and that free-agent signee Brodney Pool is not one of them. Tim MacMahon projected five safeties on the final roster, though he did issue a disclaimer about Pool, saying he'd probably have to win a starting spot in order to make the team:
If Pool gets beat out, he might never play a game for the Cowboys. It’d be tough to swallow paying a seven-figure salary to a backup safety.
[+] EnlargeStephen McGee
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliWill Barry Church's experience in Dallas' system earn him a starting spot at safety in 2012?
Pool could theoretically lose the starting strong safety spot to Barry Church or rookie Matt Johnson, who was the No. 135 pick in this year's draft in spite of being ranked as the No. 72 draft-eligible safety by our Scouts, Inc. scouting service. (As someone pointed out to me on Twitter at the time, this would have made him an incredible steal in a safety-only draft.)

Remember, this is the Abram Elam spot, for which the team signed Elam last year in part to help the rest of the defensive players learn Rob Ryan's defense. Elam had played for Ryan in Cleveland, as Pool did, and served a valuable leadership role in training camp and early in the season before his play tailed off in the second half. With the defense entering its second season under Ryan, and having a full offseason to learn and practice it this time, it's not quite as important to have someone with prior Ryan experience on the field as it may have been last August and September. So Pool's experience doesn't assure him of anything.

Church is a guy they obviously know, and Johnson is not. They liked his playmaking ability at Eastern Washington, and if he brings the same kind of game to the pros, he projects as a hard hitter with a nose for the ball. And yeah, they could obviously use that. Tim wrote last week that we shouldn't count Johnson out of the mix as a potential starter this year, and I always listen to Tim.

The problem with these sorts of projections, though, is that safety is an impossible position to analyze at this point. I was talking to Redskins coach Mike Shanahan last week about his safeties (name-dropper alert!), and at one point he said, "Who knows with safeties until you put pads on them and see them play?" And he's right. There's no hitting in these minicamps, and until you see how hard a safety hits somebody, it's pretty tough to evaluate him. You might be able to tell whether he's a decent cover guy, or whether he can make plays on the ball, but even that's no sure thing. The nature of the position naturally makes it likely that they'll play differently in a no-pads, no-contact minicamp than they might in a game.

So I'd say we're a long way off from knowing whether Pool is good enough to start for the Cowboys, or whether Johnson can make an impact this year. That the young man will get a chance at all says a lot about Dallas' need for someone to take charge at that position. The sleeper pick out of Eastern Washington would seem an unlikely candidate to do so, but stranger things have happened. And you never know with safeties.

Analysis: Brodney Pool brings some youth

March, 16, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Brodney Pool wanted to play for the Dallas Cowboys last year. Some inside the building wanted him, too, but the club ended up with Abram Elam instead.

A year later, the Cowboys got Pool.

But did they get better?

Well, they got younger.

Elam is 31 in October. Pool is 28 in May.

But the players are similar.

This is a thumbnail sketch from an AFC personnel guy on Pool: offers some flexibility at strong and free safety, steady but doesn’t make many plays on the ball, situational player.

Sounds like Elam, doesn’t it?

Elam had 79 tackles, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery, according to the Cowboys’ coaches’ breakdown. For the Jets last year, Pool started six games, played in 14 and had 37 tackles, a half sack, four quarterback hurries, an interception, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery.

You can’t find stars in free agency at every spot in a salary-cap system. At one year and $1.2 million, Pool makes sense. He is more of a stop-gap guy right now and the Cowboys can look in the draft for a future starter. Alabama’s Mark Barron would make some sense if the Cowboys are looking for one in the first round to break into the lineup.

Safety Brodney Pool coming to visit

March, 14, 2012
The Cowboys will receive a visit from safety Brodney Pool, according to a source.

Pool played for the New York Jets the last two seasons and was credited with four quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and one interception last season.

Pool, however, played with Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with the Cleveland Browns in the 2009 season. Under Ryan, Pool had a career-high four interceptions and also had 10 pass breakups.

A second-round pick from Oklahoma by the Browns, Pool is a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. If he signs, it could signal the end of Abram Elam's brief time with the Cowboys. He played one season with Dallas and wasn't offered a contract when the season was over.

A Cowboys free-agency primer

March, 12, 2012

IRVING, Texas – At 3:01 p.m. Tuesday, free agency begins.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has promised to be aggressive in pursuit of upgrading a roster that has missed the playoffs the last two seasons and three of the last four.

In order to do so, the Cowboys will have to re-work some contracts to create enough room under the $120.6 million salary cap, but it is feasible the team can add two starters and a veteran backup quarterback and re-sign wide receiver Laurent Robinson.

As the shopping hour approaches, here are some quick questions and answers:

** What are the Cowboys biggest needs?

We’ve talked about this all offseason, but they need help in the secondary (cornerback and safety) and on the interior of the offensive line. They also need a backup quarterback with Jon Kitna’s retirement, and those don’t come too cheaply. They could use a difference maker at defensive end, but those players aren’t flying around free agency. While the Cowboys like Bruce Carter, there is no way to be sold he is their starting inside linebacker next to Sean Lee in 2012. Add inside linebacker to the list. Also add a backup tight end. The goal of free agency should be to fill enough holes to help make the draft process better so you don’t overvalue certain positions in April.

** What to make of the Mario Williams talk?

I just don’t see that happening. In order to sign Williams, the Cowboys would likely have to fork over in the neighborhood of $40 million guaranteed. In other words: DeMarcus Ware money. If they do that, then that would take them out of upgrades elsewhere. Plus, the team placed the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer. This isn’t to debate who is better, Spencer or Williams, but to say who’s the better fit at the price and the chance to fill needs elsewhere. Williams is more dynamic but is just too costly.

** What to do with Laurent Robinson?

The Cowboys have said Robinson is a priority. Robinson, who had 11 touchdowns last year, has said he would love to stay. Both sides want it to happen but if another team wants to blow away Robinson with an offer the Cowboys will not get into a bidding war. It would, however, create the need for a No. 3 receiver. Despite Jones’ talk about Andre Holmes, the Cowboys cannot bank on untested receivers like Holmes, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris to pick up the slack.

** Will Jerry Jones make a splash?

In his tenure as owner and general manager, he has made three splashes in free agency in Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens and Leonard Davis. You can put La’Roi Glover in that mix to a degree if you want. That’s it. He had a big one-day signing spree in 2005 on Jason Ferguson, Anthony Henry and Marco Rivera but they weren’t stop-the-presses signings across the league. Jones’ most productive free-agent shopping might have come in 2003 when they added Richie Anderson, Dan Campbell, Toby Gowin and Al Singleton to the roster. Don’t hold your breath on a guy like Williams or New Orleans guard Carl Nicks.

** Will the Cowboys re-sign any of their free agents before the market opens?

Doubtful. League rules prevent them from re-signing Robinson before Tuesday. Mat McBriar’s recent surgery means the two-time Pro Bowl punter will hit the market. They have had some talks with the agent for Keith Brooking but nothing substantial. Abram Elam will be allowed to test the market too. Same with Montrae Holland, who did a nice job at left guard for 10 games.

What should Cowboys do at safety?

March, 10, 2012
Everybody knows the Dallas Cowboys need to upgrade their secondary, and much of the attention has been on cornerback, where Terence Newman is sure to be released and the Cowboys are being linked to cornerbacks such as Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan in free agency and Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirkpatrick in the draft. But they also need to address safety, and the Cowboys' website raises the interesting name of Brodney Pool as a possible solution there. Pool played for Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in Cleveland and could be a fit in Dallas if it decides not to retain his former teammate, Abram Elam:
Having started alongside Elam in Cleveland, Pool's signing with the Cowboys would mean that Elam will play elsewhere in 2012, most likely. Gerald Sensabaugh has been locked up to a long-term deal, but the Cowboys could use an upgrade opposite him. Pool and Elam are comparable talents, but Pool is three years younger and has a bit more size and athleticism. The team would seem unlikely to use a first-round pick on one of the draft's top safeties like Mark Barron of Alabama, and could hope to buy more time for a young player like Barry Church before inserting him into the starting lineup. Pool is quite capable of bridging that gap.

This is the kind of name that makes sense for the Cowboys at a position where they have a serious need but aren't likely to fill it with a pursuit of the biggest, flashiest names. I wouldn't rule out them taking someone like Barron in the first round of the draft, especially if they like whatever they've done at cornerback in free agency. But there are enough Pool-type veteran safeties on the market that the Cowboys should be able to find someone to give them what they need at the position.

NFC East: Free-agency primer

March, 9, 2012
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Dallas Cowboys

Key free agents: WR Laurent Robinson, S Abram Elam, LB Keith Brooking, LB Anthony Spencer (franchise)

Where they stand: Dallas needs serious help in the secondary and will have to decide whether it wants Elam back at safety while it pursues at least one cornerback. The Cowboys are expected to release Terence Newman, and they could look to add depth at that position and a new starter. Franchising Spencer indicates that while they would like to improve their pass rush, they won't be players in the Mario Williams market. Expect their free-agent focus to be on defensive backs and possibly some upgrades on the interior of the offensive line. They would like Robinson back as their No. 3 receiver, but if he's going to get No. 2 receiver-type offers, they'll likely let him walk.

What to expect: The top two cornerback targets are likely Kansas City's Brandon Carr and Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan. You can't rule out Dallas making a play for Saints guard Carl Nicks, who'd be a huge help to their offensive line. But someone like Baltimore's Ben Grubbs is likely to be more attainable financially. What the Cowboys really need on the line is a center, but it's not a great market for those unless they can get their hands on Houston's Chris Myers. The Cowboys likely will hunt for some second-tier safeties and inside linebackers to add depth, then target defensive back again early in the draft.

New York Giants

Key free agents: WR Mario Manningham, OT Kareem McKenzie, CB Aaron Ross, CB Terrell Thomas, LB Jonathan Goff, P Steve Weatherford (franchise).

Where they stand: The Super Bowl champs must get their own cap situation in order first, as they project to be about $7.25 million over the projected cap. That may mean tough cuts of people like Brandon Jacobs or David Diehl, or it may just mean some contract restructuring (like the big one they apparently just did with Eli Manning). Regardless, don't expect the Giants to spend big to keep Manningham or Ross. They're likely to bring back Thomas on a team-favorable deal as a result of the knee injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, and they'll probably let McKenzie walk and try to replace him internally (which favors Diehl's chances of sticking around).

What to expect: Just like last year, don't expect the Giants to be big-game hunters. They like to grow their own replacements. If Manningham leaves, they won't go after the top wide receivers but might try to find a bargain or two to supplement the young players from whom they're expecting more production next season. They could find a midlevel safety if they don't bring back Deon Grant, and if Jacobs leaves they'll probably bring in a veteran running back or two to compete in training camp with their youngsters. They liked Ronnie Brown last year as a possible Ahmad Bradshaw replacement when Bradshaw was a pending free agent, so there's a name to watch for if you want one.

Philadelphia Eagles

Key free agents: G Evan Mathis, DT Trevor Laws, DT Antonio Dixon (restricted), WR DeSean Jackson (franchise), QB Vince Young

Where they stand: Other than Mathis, whom they're working to try and re-sign before he his the market, the Eagles don't have many internal free-agent issues to worry about. They franchised Jackson because they're not ready to give him a long-term deal just yet. He's a candidate for a trade, but it would have to be a very nice offer. If they traded him, they'd hunt for a wide receiver, but they may do so anyway -- just at a lower level (think Plaxico Burress). The interior of the defensive line is in fairly good hands with Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson as starters, but they could stand to add depth to that rotation. And while they signed Trent Edwards a couple of weeks ago, they'll keep looking for a better veteran backup quarterback option with Young sure to be gone.

What to expect: Do not -- I repeat, do not -- expect the Eagles to be the same kind of player they were in free agency a year ago. Andy Reid made it very clear several times during the 2011 offseason and season that last year was unique, and the Eagles don't like to do business that way in general. They do need linebackers, and they have the cap room to play on guys like Stephen Tulloch or Curtis Lofton or even, if they wanted to get really nutty, London Fletcher. But while you can expect them to add a veteran or two at the position, don't be surprised if they sit out the higher-priced auctions this time around.

Washington Redskins

Key free agents: S LaRon Landry, LB London Fletcher, DE Adam Carriker, TE Fred Davis (franchise), QB Rex Grossman

Where they stand: Mike Shanahan said in December that Fletcher was a priority, but he remains unsigned with less than a week to go before free agency. Presumably, they'd still like to lock him up before he hits the market. If they can't, they'll have to replace a major on-field and off-field presence. Carriker is likely to be back, but the Fletcher situation has to be settled first. Landry likely is gone unless he wants to take a low-base, high-incentive deal to stay. The Redskins are sick of not knowing whether he'll be able to take the field from week to week. Grossman could return, but only as a backup to whatever quarterback upgrade they find.

What to expect: The Redskins could have more than $40 million in cap room with which to maneuver in free agency, and they're going to need it. They need a quarterback, of course, and if they can't make the trade with the Rams to move up to No. 2 in the draft and pick Robert Griffin III, they'll look at Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton and possibly Matt Flynn, though he doesn't appear to be high on their list. What Shanahan really wants is a true playmaking No. 1 wide receiver, which is why the Redskins have their eyes on Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston, who are at the very top end of that market. They'll be able to outbid almost anyone for those guys if they want to, but they may have to get quarterback figured out first if they want to persuade one of them to take their offer over similar ones. They'll also hunt for help on the offensive line and in the secondary, as they need depth in both places.

Cowboys will be active in free agency

February, 27, 2012
IRVING, Texas – Contrary to popular opinion, the Cowboys do not act like the New York Yankees when it comes to unrestricted free agency.

Coop and Nate discuss the latest Cowboys news from the combine, specifically Jerry Jones' comments regarding the team's talent level.

Listen Listen
In the last two years they have signed two unrestricted free agents: Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam. They signed three players in 2009 but none in 2008.

The Cowboys are currently $12.6 million under the cap and could create enough room by releasing players or restructuring contracts to have as much as $20-25 million in space.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones can’t guarantee the Cowboys will be able to sign players when the market opens March 13, but he does predict they will be a player.

“The way I read it all right now is that we’re going to be active in free agency,” Jones said.

The last mega-money contract Jones doled out in free agency was to Leonard Davis in 2007 ($49 million). In 2005 he shelled out about $30 million in guarantees to Marco Rivera, Anthony Henry and Jason Ferguson.

In other years the Cowboys have gone for quantity over top-quality with some success. In 2003 they added Al Singleton, Richie Anderson, Dan Campbell and Toby Gowin. In 2006 they added Akin Ayodele and Kyle Kosier. (Technically Terrell Owens did not count as an unrestricted free agent because he had been cut by Philadelphia.)

Jones said the new labor agreement between the players and owners will help take out some of the monetary guesswork.

“We have an almost exact understanding of where we’re going to be with our contracts and available room under the cap as we look ahead and where we are right now,” Jones said. “If you fact that into it and use that space up, there’s no gamble. You know exactly what’s out there. Now the true game is if the player should not be the player you think he is and you end up paying more than you should.”

Abram Elam hires CAA's Tom Condon

February, 24, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS – If the Cowboys want to re-sign Abram Elam to a new contract this offseason, they now know which agent is representing the veteran safety.

Elam has hired CAA’s Tom Condon as his representative after parting ways with Drew Rosenhaus late last season.

Condon, along with fellow agents Ben Dogra, Jimmy Sexton and Ken Kremer, represent a number of Cowboys, including Tony Romo, Terence Newman, Jason Witten and Doug Free.

Elam signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys last year worth $2.5 million, including a $1.8 million signing bonus. Elam started every game in 2011 and finished second on the team in tackles with 79. He had four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

The Cowboys handed Gerald Sensabaugh a five-year contract extension late last season, however, they added Jerome Henderson as secondary coach, which could help in Elam’s return. Elam played for Henderson in Cleveland before joining the Cowboys.

Condon said he has not spoken with the Cowboys about a new deal.