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Everybody wants to go out and sign the big fish, but it does not always work out favorably. A look at some of the best and some of the worst Cowboys free agency signings in the past decade.
Jeremy Mincey, DE. The majority of the Cowboys’ significant investments have been spent on the offense throughout the last decade. That was certainly the case in 2014 when Dallas won 12 games with a defense led by Mincey, Carr, Rolando McClain, Tyrone Crawford, Anthony Hitchens and Barry Church. With DeMarcus Ware no longer on the roster, Mincey stepped in as a defensive captain, leading the team with six sacks and 39 QB pressures. He also had a sack in each of the Cowboys’ two playoff games that season. Mincey didn’t come close to that production the following year, but it was still an excellent free agency addition for two years at $3 million.
While Mincey worked out, this defender did not.
Nolan Carroll, CB. He was signed in 2017 to fill a starting role with the departures of veteran corners Carr and Morris Claiborne. Carroll’s deal was for three years, $10 million with $4 million guaranteed. He ended up not even playing two full games before he was released. Two months after signing with Dallas, Carroll was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. Carroll started 16 games for the Eagles in 2016 and 11 in 2015. He has not played in the NFL since his release from the Cowboys
What about draft mistakes? Taco Charlton is the worst first-round pick by Dallas in the last 10 years.
Dallas Cowboys: DE Taco Charlton
Draft Status: 2017, No. 28 Overall
Over the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have nailed their Day 1 picks. Cornerback Morris Claiborne didn’t play up to his first-round billing, but he recorded 27 pass breakups and four interceptions in five years with the team.
The Cowboys released Taco Charlton after two seasons. Before his release, he needed a “man talk” with former defensive coordinator and line coach Rod Marinelli after his attitude rubbed Marinelli the wrong way, per Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News.
”We got to talking in the offseason and hash out our differences, and now we can move forward and worry about what’s going on on the football field and go from there,” Charlton said.
In the second half of his rookie season, Charlton flashed his pass-rushing skills, registering three sacks after Week 7. He opened the following year as a starter but suffered a shoulder injury and missed five games late in the campaign.
In September 2019, the defensive end tweeted “free me,” and the Cowboys pulled the plug on their 2017 first-round investment soon after. Taco signed with the Miami Dolphins and logged more sacks (five) in 10 games with his new team than the club that drafted him (four).
Charlton could put together a strong second act with the Dolphins. Yet, he didn’t show much development in Dallas.
If I am a scout looking at film, the review on the player would read like this. Frederick was a tick late off of blocks and getting to the second level. The player he was responsible for on any screen almost always made the tackle. Frederick could not sit on a bull rush and was mostly pushed back.
His intelligence in making the line calls is still top-notch but his physical play just diminished. Dallas might get someone who can be the physical type of player Frederick used to be but the player’s intelligence is what will determine how big of a loss Frederick will end up being.
I wish Travis Frederick good health and fortune moving forward. Frederick will, in my opinion, be the best center to ever play for the Dallas Cowboys and thank him for all of the great memories.
The 2019 draft class largely disappointed during their rookie season, but Tony Pollard flashed at different times for the Cowboys. Could the versatile Pollard be the receiver that this team needs?
With Zeke already a proven receiving threat in his own right, Dallas has the ability to throw a lot of looks at opposing defenses. They can start with both Elliott and Pollard in the backfield and then send one out into a receiving pattern, or try to confuse things with various pre-snap motions.
No, this doesn’t mean that the Cowboys shouldn’t draft a receiver early in the upcoming draft. If nothing else, they need more talent on the WR depth chart in case something happens with Cooper or Gallup.
But Dallas could’ve addressed the loss of Randall Cobb already in free agency, and some are surprised and even upset that they haven’t. A reason for that lack of activity may be the presence of Tony Pollard, who deserves more touches after his strong rookie season.
There are so many talented options at wideout in this year’s draft class. That could create some conflict on the first night of the draft.
Why? I’ve given out a total of five first-round grades to 2020 receivers:
In a vacuum, each of these players is one I would deem worthy of a first-round pick. And if certain teams (such as the Philadelphia Eagles) drafted Jefferson, Shenault or any of the other receivers not among the top three, I would understand why that pick was made.
But when you consider the depth of this year’s receiver class and comparing the skills of those who are on the fringe of being a top prospect, you’ll often find comparable valuable.
Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs are a clear cut top tier. They’re dynamic talents who nearly check every box you could want. But after them, you start getting into murky waters that aren’t easily navigated without finding a comparable talent a bit further down the board. And if I can get 90% of a player a round later, I’m going to take my shots earlier in the draft at positions that possess equal talent but greater scarcity.
We know how much this front office loves players from big, Power 5 programs, with Boise State being the obvious exception. This year’s draft process could hurt small-school prospects more.
For small-school prospects — and even big-school players who didn’t receive invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine — much of their future is pro football is dependent on postseason all-star games, pro days and team visits. Performing well in those settings is no guarantee that they will hear their names called on draft weekend even in the best of circumstances, but the lack of opportunities this year makes things even more difficult. “Teams are more willing to trust what they already know instead of experimenting on a small-school guy that they haven’t had a pro day with,” one league source said of the situation. “The people who definitely benefit are guys from big schools. Scouts like numbers. They like being able to refer to the book, they like being able to see what people did at pro days, and for guys who already had pro days, the scouts are going to be working off of that information.”’
Small-school stars who managed to work out at a pro day before the mid-March cancellations, like Western Illinois receiver George Wahee, have a leg up on their peers. The Bears and Vikings were in attendance at the Western Illinois pro day early March, and the 5-foot-10 receiver’s performance was solid enough to draw the attention of legendary NFL executive Gil Brandt, who a few days after the event tweeted that Wahee was on NFL radars despite not having a combine invite. For a player with just 40 catches for 449 yards and five TDs as a senior, a small edge like that can make all the difference when undrafted prospects and their agents are petitioning for camp invites.
Ultimately, the biggest winners in all of this are the big-school prospects who had combine invites. They have tape. They have verified measurements and medical information. They’ve had one-on-ones with team personnel. Even if they didn’t perform to their expectations in Indianapolis, teams are more comfortable reverting back to their game film, of which there is plenty, and taking on chance on them in the later rounds, as opposed to a small-school prospect they’re relatively unfamiliar with.
However, it does not sound as if the Jets have reduced their demands. They were asking for a first-rounder and two second-rounders at the deadline, and Cimini reports that it would still take an “extraordinary offer” to convince New York to deal Adams. After all, the LSU product has already established himself as an elite safety, and he won’t turn 25 until October.
The Dallas native previously indicated he would love to join the Cowboys, so if Jerry Jones‘ outfit does swing a trade, Adams would surely be receptive to a long-term pact. But whoever gives him his next contract will need to be prepared to make him the highest-paid safety in the game. Adams stands to land a deal paying him at least $15MM per season with upwards of $45MM in guaranteed money.
Our latest episode of The Ocho features former Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler and he has a lot to share. Brice discusses just about everything that happened during his time with the Cowboys, what he’s up to these days, and so much more.
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