Dallas Cowboys: Keith Brooking

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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for a possible replacement for Sean Lee has led them to Rolando McClain.

In 2010, the Oakland Raiders made McClain the eighth pick of the NFL draft. It never worked out for him with the Raiders for a variety of reasons, including some of his misdeeds. It never worked out for him in two short stints with the Baltimore Ravens that led to him retiring twice.

But he doesn't turn 25 until July 14.

The Cowboys are looking at a low-risk chance for a high-ceiling talent.

“He sounds as excited about football as I've ever heard him,” said McClain's agent, Pat Dye.

McClain
If that holds up, then the Cowboys might have found the guy to man the middle linebacker spot that opened when Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May. The Cowboys mostly worked veteran Justin Durant at Lee's spot in the organized team activities and minicamp, but dabbled with rookie Anthony Hitchens and second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman at the spot.

Durant is an outside linebacker masking as a middle linebacker even if the coaches believe he can play all three linebacker positions. Holloman started two games at middle linebacker last year as a rookie out of desperation. Hitchens, a fourth-round pick, has a lot to learn.

McClain comes with a better resume than any of them, but his off-field issues -- a number of arrests since being drafted -- are a concern. The fact that he retired twice is a concern, but Dye's words offer encouragement that McClain, who ended Jason Witten's preseason in 2012 with a hit in a exhibition game that led to a lacerated spleen, knows this might be his last chance.

“I see, and Rolando sees, the Dallas situation as a great opportunity given Sean's injury, and you're talking about a great franchise and a great organization,” Dye said. “I've described to any of the clients we've had through the years there -- Emmitt Smith, Dexter Coakley, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Keith Brooking, DeMarco Murray -- that playing for the Cowboys in football is kind of like playing for the Yankees in baseball. Just an iconic franchise. With kind of what he's done going back to his time with the Raiders, I think that all of this has led him to a point where he feels like the game is too important to him to give up. He's just 24 years old. He's very talented. He's very bright. Tough. Competitive. There's a reason he was a top-10 pick at a position that is almost impossible to be a top-10 pick. Hopefully this situation will go smoothly.”

Patience will be required. McClain has not played in a game since November 2012, after he was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. He has not taken part in a full offseason program. He will have to learn a new defense and a new team.

The Cowboys have taken these sorts of chances on former high draft picks before. In 2005, they signed Marc Colombo, who was the Chicago Bears' first-round pick in 2002, after he suffered a serious knee injury. In 2006, Colombo became the Cowboys' starting right tackle and held the spot through 2010.

Asking that of McClain is too much. He's on just a one-year deal and the Cowboys believe Lee will be 100 percent in 2015, but this is a chance worth taking.

And it falls in line with how the Cowboys have conducted their offseason business, spending wisely if not exorbitantly on guys such as Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye.

Reviewing Cowboys' free agency: 2010

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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With free agency entering the final stages, we'll review the Cowboys' past five free-agency classes.

We'll continue with 2010.

Players signed: None

Starts earned: 0

Analysis: This was the first time the Cowboys didn't sign anybody in free agency since 2008. However, the Cowboys who lost six players the previous season in free agency, including two former draft picks (Kevin Burnett and Chris Canty), allowed safety Ken Hamlin and guard Cory Procter to leave. The Cowboys maintained the playing status of Keith Brooking (16 starts), Igor Olshansky (14 games) and Gerald Sensabaugh (15 games) from the previous free agency class. What is interesting about this class was the draft. The Cowboys snagged future starter Sean Lee in the second round and a quality backup defensive lineman in Sean Lissemore in the seventh round. The Cowboys also used their supplemental draft pick on defensive end Josh Brent. Dallas finished this season at 6-10 and coach Wade Phillips was fired after a 45-7 loss at Green Bay. Jason Garrett took over and the Cowboys had a strong finish, 5-3. It's the only time Garrett ended a season above .500 mark.

Grade: Incomplete

Reviewing Cowboys' free agency: 2009

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
2:00
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With free agency entering the final stages, we'll review the Cowboys' last five free-agency classes.

We'll start with 2009.

Players signed: Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Starts earned: 43

Analysis: The Cowboys signed three defensive players to help then-coach Wade Phillips in a critical third season. The Cowboys were coming off a playoff-less 2008 season and Phillips maintained his job, despite calls for him to get fired. Brooking was signed as a veteran inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense and he finished second on the team in tackles to Bradie James. Sensabaugh was signed to a one-year deal to become a playmaking safety. He had one interception, but finished third with 10 pass breakups. Olshansky was supposed to be a run-stopping defensive end and started 14 games in 2009. Olshansky finished the final five weeks with 22 tackles, six quarterback pressures, a half sack and a tackle for loss. Phillips' defense posted shutouts in consecutive games to finish the regular season, outscoring opponents, 41-0, and holding the Redskins and Eagles to 446 combined yards. The Cowboys clinched the NFC East, won a playoff game for the first time since the 1990s, and opened the new stadium, which gave fans high hopes for things to come.

Grade: B

Cowboys have to spend, choose wisely

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
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IRVING, Texas -- The free-agent shopping starts today at 3 p.m. CT.

If the Dallas Cowboys have learned anything, it’s that they should use coupons.

From 2006-11, the Cowboys signed 12 players in unrestricted free agency. Only two players who signed multi-year deals reached the end of their contracts: Kyle Kosier signed a five-year, $15 million deal with the Cowboys in 2006 and was with the team through 2011. Keith Brooking signed a three-year, $6 million deal in 2009 and was a contributor through 2011.

Igor Olshansky (2009), Leonard Davis (2007) and Akin Ayodele (2006) are the only other players who made it more than one season on their original deals, and Olshansky and Ayodele made it only two seasons.

The Cowboys signed seven unrestricted free agents in 2012 and three lasted one season (Dan Connor, Nate Livings and Lawrence Vickers) on multi-year deals. Brodney Pool signed a one-year deal and barely made it to training camp.

Three members of the 2012 free-agent class remain: Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million), Mackenzy Bernadeau (four years, $11.5 million) and Kyle Orton (three years, $10.5 million). Carr is coming off a disappointing 2013 season, Bernadeau took a pay cut last week and Orton is not sure he wants to play.

Spending money in free agency is hardly ever the answer. The Cowboys will not have a ton of money available to them when the market opens until the DeMarcus Ware situation is resolved, and even then they will have to be wise with how they spend it and who they spend it on.

The needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. That’s what happens when a unit finishes last in the NFL in 2013. But the Cowboys could use a veteran presence at wide receiver (Robert Meachem, Jason Avant) and a backup quarterback if Orton walks away (Shaun Hill).

Finding defensive line help is a must, but the Cowboys will have to be budget conscious. They have had on and off talks with Jordan Woy, who represents free agents Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer, for most of the offseason. Both players could find better financial opportunities elsewhere.

Hatcher turns 32 in July and is coming off a career-high 11 sacks. He was added to the Pro Bowl. Spencer played in only one game in 2013 because of a knee injury that will not be healed enough for him to be 100 percent ready for training camp.

How much of a commitment can the Cowboys make and feel like they will get their money’s worth?

Ties to new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli could help in the pursuit of Henry Melton, but he is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Value is often the most overlooked part of free agency. The big-money signings lead to the biggest headlines, but do not correspond enough to wins and losses.

The Cowboys found value in Kosier, Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Bernadeau but did not or have not received enough bang for the buck in Carr ($26.5 million guarantee) and Davis ($18.75 million guaranteed).

As the Cowboys look to clear this 8-8 bump that has turned into Mt. Everest, they need to spend wisely, but more importantly they need to choose wisely.
IRVING, Texas -- Since the Seattle Seahawks have won the Super Bowl, every team now has to copy what they did to win a title.

I’m guilty of making those comparisons the past few days. ESPN Dallas columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor made one today, repeating the “defense wins championships” phrase.

In order for the Dallas Cowboys to get back to Super Bowl respectability, Jerry Jones has to make defense a priority, according to my guy JJT.

I’d make the argument the Cowboys owner and general manager has made defense a priority. The investments just haven’t paid off.

In 2012, the Cowboys traded up to the sixth overall pick in the draft to take cornerback Morris Claiborne. That came a month after they gave cornerback Brandon Carr a five-year, $50 million contract. The Cowboys’ top three picks that year were defensive players.

In 2011, they drafted Bruce Carter in the second round and their only free-agent pickup that year was starting defensive end Kenyon Coleman. In 2010 they drafted Sean Lee in the second round. Last August they committed a $42 million contract to Lee.

In 2009, an ill-fated draft for sure, the Cowboys’ top pick was a linebacker. In 2008, they drafted cornerback Mike Jenkins in the first round and that came after they gave Terence Newman a $50 million contract.

In 2007, they drafted outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer in the first round. In 2012 and ’13, they used the franchise tag on Spencer, spending nearly $19 million on him. In 2006, four of their first six selections were on defensive players. In 2005, they used both first-round selections on defensive players (DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears) and four of their first five picks were used on defenders. Jay Ratliff was a seventh-round pick that year and the Cowboys signed him to two big-time contracts. The second was a colossal flop and he was released last October.

Ware received a $91 million extension in 2009. That same year they signed three defensive starters in free agency: Keith Brooking, Igor Olshansky and Gerald Sensabaugh.

Defense has been a priority. They just haven’t got the return on their investments.

Sean Lee soaks up Dat Nguyen's wisdom

July, 31, 2013
7/31/13
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OXNARD, Calif. – An equipment manager finally found Sean Lee in the media area, about an hour after practice ended, and told the middle linebacker his uniform was needed so the laundry could be started.

Had it not been interrupted, who knows how long Lee’s intense conversation with the San Antonio sports-talk radio host would have lasted?

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It looked like Lee could have continued picking Dat Nguyen’s brain all night out there on the tennis courts that overlook the Cowboys’ practice fields.

“You’re talking scheme and technique and everything," Lee said. "You can to try to pick his brain to see what made him successful.”

It was one of a few conversations that Lee and Nguyen have had over the past week, only one of which aired on the ESPN San Antonio 1250 AM drive-time show that Nguyen has co-hosted for a little longer than a year.

Lee looks at Nguyen -- whose smarts keyed a successful, albeit injury-shortened seven-year career as an undersized Cowboys linebacker -- as a role model whose wisdom is a resource. Nguyen, who decided to get out of coaching because he didn’t want his wife and three daughters to have to keep moving, considers Lee to be a blossoming linebacker genius.

“He’s a coach on the field,” said Nguyen, who lists Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking and Ray Lewis among the few linebackers he’s seen with instincts similar to Lee’s. “That’s exactly what you want. He’s like a coach’s dream.

“Man, this dude is smart. He wants to be good. He’s willing to listen. He’s one of those hard workers that wants to be good, and the game is important to him. You don’t find too many guys like that anymore. The game is important to him and he wants to be better at it, and he’s working.

“He’s exciting to watch. I watched that kid out there. He’s all over the field all the time. He doesn’t take a lot of bad steps and he doesn’t put himself in bad situations.”

The Cowboys paths of Lee and Nguyen just missed crossing. Nguyen was Dallas’ defensive quality control/assistant linebackers coach for the first three seasons of Wade Phillips’ tenure. Months before Lee was drafted, Nguyen left to coach linebackers at his alma mater, Texas A&M, where the Aggies legend was fired along with the rest of Mike Sherman’s staff after the 2011 season.

Now, Nguyen humbly carries himself as just another media guy, joining packs of reporters to interview players after practices. Funny, but the former No. 59 is the only media member whom Lee seeks out to discuss the details of playing middle linebacker in a Cover 2-intensive scheme, which Nguyen did for five of his NFL seasons.

“If I can share anything to help, I absolutely would help,” Nguyen said. “He’s a great kid. I want him to succeed. He’s one of the better linebackers in the league. It’s flattering that he would even want to ask me questions.

“He just loves the game. He’s 24/7. He’s just one of those guys that, bring your lunch pail. He’s just going to play football. He loves the game, and he just wants to do everything he can to be successful.”

That includes acting like a sponge around a San Antonio sports-talk radio host.

Jerry: Bruce Carter might be fastest LB in NFL

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
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IRVING, Texas – As far as Sean Lee's running mate goes, the Cowboys have gone from a couple of old, beat-up pickups to a new truck with a Hemi under the hood.

Bruce Carter might be able to backpedal faster than Bradie James and Keith Brooking can run straight ahead at their advanced age. Carter reportedly ran a 4.39 40 at North Carolina before tearing his ACL his senior season, an injury that caused him to slip to the second round, where the Cowboys considered him a Lee-like steal.

“We are faster,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM. “There’s no question when you look at No. 54 Carter out there, who is the fastest inside linebacker in the NFL, maybe the fastest linebacker, period. He adds speed. It’s a big difference out there.”

Carter won a training camp competition with free agent addition Dan Connor to start next to Lee. Judging by the snap counts in the season opener, it wasn’t much of a contest.

Carter played 30 of the Cowboys’ 56 defensive snaps. Connor played just four.

Don’t expect that to change. Carter played a significant role in an outstanding defensive performance, getting credited for five tackles, including a couple of times he stuffed tailback Ahmad Bradshaw at the line of scrimmage.

“You can see that Bruce is somebody that can really run to the football,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He makes a lot of plays sideline to sideline.”

Cowboys feel an upgrade at inside LB

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
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SAN DIEGO -- If there is a leader in the clubhouse to be the inside linebacker next to Sean Lee in the Cowboys’ 3-4 defense this season, it is last year’s second-round pick, Bruce Carter.

Carter, however, has not pulled away so much in his bid that Dan Connor cannot be found in the rear-view mirror.

But what the Cowboys feel they have done this summer is upgrade the inside linebacker spot from 2011, when Bradie James and Keith Brooking lined up next to Lee. James, now in Houston and reunited with Wade Phillips, lost his role as the defensive leader last year. Brooking, who is now in Denver, took over a role as a nickel linebacker last year.

The biggest difference where the Cowboys will see the impact of Carter and Connor is on special teams. James and Brooking volunteered to play special teams last year but simply lacked the speed to be factors.

Carter and Connor are younger and faster, especially Carter.

“We feel that position is healthier,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We feel like we have guys who can play, special teams guys, guys that can play on third down as well as be first- and second-down players. Those guys have battled every day to learn our system. It’s a nice situation to have all three players at the inside linebacker spot.”

Cowboys training camp battle: Inside LB

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
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AFC camp battles: West | North | South | East NFC: West | North | South | East

An early look at the biggest training camp position battles:

DALLAS COWBOYS

Inside linebacker: Dan Connor versus Bruce Carter.

Carter was the Cowboys' second-round pick in 2011. He was injured when they drafted him, so they didn't expect him to make much of an impact in 2011. Once recovered, he played in each of the team's final 10 games, but didn't play much. With Keith Brooking and Bradie James gone, the Cowboys need a starter at inside linebacker next to 2011 standout Sean Lee. Their hope is that Carter can be that for years to come, and they'd be perfectly thrilled if he could jump in at the start of this season. But they're not kidding themselves, and they know Carter might need some time to develop. That's why they signed Connor, the free-agent from Carolina. Connor's the veteran, and a guy they can plug in next to Lee right away and feel good about. But Carter's the one with the upside, and he's getting first-team reps this offseason while Connor recovers from shoulder surgery. My sense is that Carter will either convince them he's ready and get the job or convince them he's not and leave the job to Connor with the chance that he usurps him later in the year. I don't think Connor's performance in the preseason matters to this competition as much as Carter's does. We could have picked No. 3 wide receiver for this exercise, or guard, or center. But the Cowboys' main issues are on defense, and this is a spot on which the coaches will have their eye later this month.

Jerry Jones: "I think we're better"

April, 28, 2012
4/28/12
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IRVING, Texas -- In the early stages of the offseason, owner/general manager Jerry Jones thought if his team had beaten the New York Giants in the 2011 regular-season finale, the Cowboys might have produced a deep playoff run.

It didn't happen.

The Cowboys lost the finale and watched the NFL playoffs for the second consecutive season. But after nearly two months of free agency and then the NFL draft, which ended Saturday night, Jones said his team is better than last year.

"I think we're better," Jones said after the draft Saturday night. "And we're certainly better with what we did in free agency and certainly just all the way around. Yes, it wouldn't surprise me to see really again 30 percent new faces on this roster with what we've done by the time we finished here tonight."

The Cowboys released veteran starting cornerback Terence Newman and guard Kyle Kosier and didn't re-sign veterans Montrae Holland, Derrick Dockery, Bradie James, Keith Brooking and Abram Elam, who received significant playing time in 2011. The club also didn't re-sign Laurent Robinson, who led the Cowboys with 11 touchdown receptions, because it wasn't willing to pay him a five-year, $32.5 million deal like the Jacksonville Jaguars were.

In free agency, the Cowboys signed guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to contracts worth a combined $30 million. They also signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal and added backup quarterback Kyle Orton. Safety Brodney Pool was brought in on a one-year deal and linebacker Dan Connor signed a two-year deal.

When the draft started Thursday night, the Cowboys made a bold move by moving from No. 14 to No. 6 and selecting the best cornerback in the draft, LSU's Morris Claiborne.

But over the last two days, the Cowboys didn't make any more trades, despite having an opportunity to move down in the middle rounds and gain some picks.

"I think overall, [Saturday] went really well," team executive vice president Stephen Jones said. "As you can see, we didn't do a lot of moving around and we went with our picks, and the biggest reasons was when we were ready to pick right there, there was a player there we really liked and really fit what we were trying to get accomplished for our team. We stayed right there. We had a chance to move down and around and up, but we felt really comfortable with our board."

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Cowboys' two trusted veteran inside linebackers, Bradie James and Keith Brooking, were both free agents following the 2011 season.

Each player knew the Cowboys might move on from them.

It seems with the free-agent signing of Dan Connor and now with coach Jason Garrett not giving an endorsement of their possible returns in 2012, it could be the ending of the two veterans' run in Dallas.

Not a surprise.

"We like those guys," Garrett said Wednesday morning, the final day of the NFL owners' meetings. "Those guys have done a lot of really good things for our football team and as the offseason unfolds and we go through the draft and continue to put our team together, we’ll continue to evaluate those situations."

The Cowboys could draft an inside linebacker or find someone in free agency at a cheaper rate.

Brooking has offered to play mainly on special teams and on spot duty on defense, but it doesn't appear the Cowboys are in favor of doing that.

Garrett is open to linebackers playing on special teams, something Sean Lee did last season, but you also want effective play on defense, too.

Age is another factor. James is 31 and Brooking turns 37 in October.

Bruce Carter is 24, Lee is 25 and Connor 26.

"What we’re trying to do is bring as many good players into our team that we can," Garrett said. "Dan Connor was a guy who we targeted from Carolina. Penn State linebacker, really a natural instinctive football player. He reads and recognizes things, makes a lot of plays. He’s the right kind of guy, a productive player. We had an opportunity to pursue him, we did that."

Cowboys upgrade talent base

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
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We're not sure what the Dallas Cowboys are going to do when the draft comes around in late April, but we've seen positive things in the first three days of free agency.

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It started with cornerback Brandon Carr and his five-year $50.1 million deal. Carr is an upgrade over Terence Newman, who struggled the last two months of the season.

Carr can play man-to-man, and the Cowboys believe he can make plays on the ball, something that was missing in the Cowboys' secondary last year.

You can say the Cowboys overpaid for Carr, but his contract is what the market pays.

An undervalued position is fullback and the team got the better player in signing Lawrence Vickers from the Houston Texans. There was much praise for Tony Fiammetta's work in 2011. But a hamstring and later an inner ear infection cost him games. The Cowboys want players who play, not players who sit in the trainers' room.

Vickers is a physical presence who the team will use 10-to-14 snaps a game. If DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones loved how Fiammetta blocked, wait until they see Vickers.

Jon Kitna was past his prime and his back issues forced him to retire. Stephen McGee just isn't a No. 2 quarterback in this league. So the Cowboys did the right thing by signing Kyle Orton, a player the team laid a claim on last season.

Orton has been a starter in the NFL, and Garrett said he's confident he can win games with him if Tony Romo gets injured.

Another solid pickup was inside linebacker Dan Connor. He replaces aging veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James to back up Sean Lee. He's not going to start, Bruce Carter is the future, but one thing Garrett likes to have on his team is competition. If Connor challenges Carter for a starting job, then so be it.

The Cowboys also gained younger and more experienced players along the offensive line in signing Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Depth along the offensive line is improved.

So all that's left in the draft is to find the best player available.

The Cowboys, despite signing Brodney Pool, could draft a safety and maybe a wide receiver in the first two days of the draft.

Things are looking up at Valley Ranch as the offseason moves get under way.

Analysis: Signing keeps Bruce Carter hungry

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys needed to add a veteran inside linebacker, which is why they talked about the possibility of re-signing Keith Brooking.

Dan Connor is a good get for the Cowboys because, like the decision to give Anthony Spencer the franchise tag, adding Kyle Orton and Brodney Pool, it gives them protection.

The Cowboys can rave about the progress Bruce Carter made last year, but until they see him actually play defense on more than a handful of snaps in a game, they don’t really know what Carter is about. They think they know, but they don’t know.

So adding Connor, who has some starting experience, is football savvy and can play special teams, is a solid move.

It also keeps Carter hungry.

If the Cowboys did not address the inside linebacker spot, then Carter would have known he was the guy by default. And even if Brooking had returned, it would have been difficult to see him as a starter, so Carter would have won the job.

Jason Garrett endlessly talks about creating competition throughout the roster. This creates competition for Carter to show the coaches he’s ready, to work harder in the offseason and show skeptics he was worth the second-round pick the Cowboys used on him last spring.

A Cowboys free-agency primer

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
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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.

Keith Brooking denies suit allegations

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
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IRVING, Texas -- As Keith Brooking hopes to be able to continue to play in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys' free-agent-to-be linebacker has been sued for nearly $2 million by Wells Fargo for two unpaid loans.

Through his agent, Pat Dye, Brooking has denied the bank's charges that he moved assets so the bank could not come after property as payment.

“These allegations are categorically false and unfounded,” Dye said.

According to the suit filed in Atlanta, in August of 2008 Brooking took out loans for more than $2 million, but as of January 2012, he still owed Wells Fargo more than $1.9 million. Brooking joined the Cowboys in 2009 on a three-year deal worth more than $6 million.

“There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support Wells Fargo’s allegations that Keith transferred properties to fraudulently conceal assets,” Dye said.

Earlier in the week, he expressed the desire to continue to play and said the Cowboys have expressed interest. Brooking saw his playing time decrease in 2011 but finished fifth on the team in tackles with 72, according to the coaches’ breakdown.

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