Dallas Cowboys: La'roi Glover

Cowboys holding their line in free agency

March, 18, 2014
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.

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.

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.

Final Exam: Sit back in free agency

January, 8, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- With the Dallas Cowboys missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, they obviously have a ton of needs.

Every offseason is the same story. Fans get their hopes up that the Cowboys will spend a ton of money in free agency -- even if they don't have a ton to spend -- and go get insert-name-here because that guy has to be better than whatever the Cowboys have on the roster.

The needs are obvious: defensive line, secondary, linebacker and defensive line again. You could always add offensive line help and possibly wide receiver. On an 8-8 team, every position needs help.

But the price matters when it comes to free agency. The Cowboys will be able to get under the salary cap without an issue. They could even get far enough under the cap to be big spenders if they choose.

Here's a word to the wise: don't choose.

The last big-money player the Cowboys signed was cornerback Brandon Carr, who received $50 million over five years in 2012. Is there a smidge of buyer's remorse on that one?

Teams have to overpay in free agency. The Cowboys gave Carr what was the going rate for a cornerback in unrestricted free agency. He has been better than the other big-money corner that year, Cortland Finnegan, but he has not changed the fortunes of the defense. In 2005 the Cowboys gave Anthony Henry the going rate for a cornerback at $5 million a year. He played fairly well with 12 interceptions in four seasons before he was traded for Jon Kitna in 2009.

The Cowboys laid out a huge-free agent contract for Leonard Davis ($7 million a year) and Davis had some solid seasons but not enough of them. He was cut after the 2010 season.

The best way to attack free agency is with moderate priced players. One of the best free-agent signings the Cowboys ever had was La'Roi Glover and in part because of what they paid to get him.

Prime free agents have little chance to earn what their given. Carr slumped in 2013, especially at the end of the season. He will have to be Superman in some eyes to justify the $10 million a year price tag in 2014.

So when you go through the lists of available free-agent defensive ends, defensive tackles, outside linebackers, safeties, running backs, wide receivers and offensive linemen, do not get seduced by the names.

The Cowboys have paid names in the past and it has not worked. They have gambled on up-and-coming players as well, like Carr. It's not too late for him to turn things around. An offseason can be a great refresher.

The best bet for the Cowboys and Jones is to lie low when the market opens.

Pro Bowl voters not looking at Cowboys

November, 29, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys are looking at possibly having their fewest number of Pro Bowl representatives since 2002.

The only two players in the top five in the current fan voting are DeMarcus Ware, who is second among outside linebackers, and Jason Witten, who is fourth among tight ends.

The only Cowboy selected to the Pro Bowl in 2002 was defensive lineman La’Roi Glover on a team that finished 5-11. The Cowboys had two players picked for the game last season, in Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

Witten is second in the NFL in catches with 82 and is on pace to set a league record for catches in a season by a tight end. He is on pace for more than 1,000 yards but has scored only one touchdown. He trails Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and San Francisco’s Vernon Davis.

Ware, who has played in the last six Pro Bowls, is fourth in the NFL in sacks with 10 and second in the conference. He trails Green Bay’s Clay Matthews in the fan vote.

What other Cowboy could warrant consideration? Maybe Anthony Spencer. Maybe Dez Bryant. Maybe Dan Bailey.

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.

Memo to Jerry Jones: You don't pay age in today’s NFL. And you don’t pay players -- even good ones -- who are playing out of position.

No one would argue that Jay Ratliff has given the Cowboys more bang for their buck, since he signed a five-year, $20 million deal a few years ago.

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But that doesn’t mean he deserves a new deal -- not now anyway.

First, Jerry needs to see how Ratliff fits into Rob Ryan’s new defense and whether the scheme can make him more effective since he has two years remaining on his contract.

Ratliff is a 30-year-old undersized nose tackle in a scheme that has traditionally demanded the nose tackle be a 330-pound run-stuffer who commands a double team and allows the linebackers to make tackles.

The Cowboys have tried to compensate by aligning him to take advantage of his quickness, which often compromises the integrity of the defense.

Ratliff is probably better suited to be a 4-3 defensive tackle playing on the outside shoulder of the guard, where his quickness and agility would be a significant asset.

Think Warren Sapp or La’roi Glover.

As a nose tackle, Ratliff’s body takes a beating limiting his effectiveness.

We’re talking about a player on the field for 733 plays, who did not record a tackle for loss.

Not one.

Buffalo’s Kyle Williams, who just signed a six-year, $39 million extension with $17 million guaranteed, had 10 tackles for loss last season. So did Miami’s Paul Soliai.

Ratliff, a high-energy and high-character player, had 31 tackles last season for a unit that allowed the most points in franchise history.

The run defense starts with the nose tackle.

Former Texas star Casey Hampton, who’s listed at 325 pounds and weighs at least 40 pounds more, can’t be moved. He had only 20 tackles, but Pittsburgh allowed just 2.7 yards per carry.

At 325 pounds, the Jet’s Sione Pouha anchored a defensive line that allowed just 3.0 on carry.

Each of those teams were particularly good on first down run defense, which puts the offense into obvious passing situations.

Then, the defense has the advantage.

The Cowboys? They allowed 4.45 yards per carry and 5.24 per carry on first down.

Obviously, it’s not all Ratliff’s fault, but he certainly played a role in the Cowboys’ raggedy run defense.