Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The lowdown on the Dallas Cowboys' free agent haul

And Jerry Jones still has his wallet open. 

With any luck, the 2014 bounty will top the hallowed free agent class of 2013*: Ernie Sims, Justin Durant, Jarius Wynn and Edgar Jones. *George Selvie was part of the initial strike but was released a month later and re-signed ahead of training camp.


This year’s signings are actually somewhat intriguing, if slotted properly.

McClain, Mincey and Weeden are career backups with a bit of upside. Solid depth. On a contending team, they’d fight for snaps. But that won’t be the case in Dallas, where they may be forced to play leading roles.

McClain and Mincey will get more snaps at defensive tackle and defensive end simply because of the Cowboys dearth of talent on that side of the ball. They're active players who could pile up career-highs in tackles and sacks, just like Selvie did in 2013.  

But they’ll do it on a horrid unit.

In NBA parlance, they’d be leading scorers on a last-place team, piling up stats because of volume shooting. With no one else to take the shots, some eventually go in, don’t they? Why hello, Andrea Bargnani.

But they’re not gamebreakers. Coaches aren’t going to spend extra film study time looking for ways to stop these M&M boys. McClain is undersized, chases the run well but is not much of a pass rusher. Mincey is the same.

Still, the Jones beat goes on. Maybe free agent visitors Henry Melton and Jared Allen can provide the veteran stopgaps the team desperately needs. But I’m not holding my breath. Not because Melton and Allen aren’t worth it, there’s just not enough salary cap gold in the coffers.

Which brings us to Weeden.

There’s no problem slotting him as your third quarterback.

Giving Weeden an opportunity to watch and learn for a couple of years may yield a decent backup quarterback down the line. Call it the JoshMcCown theory.

That’s all. He’s not the quarterback of the future. And hopefully not the present, either.

Weeden was drafted two years ago in the first round at the age of 28 by Cleveland after angling for a baseball career. After a mildly successful rookie season, he experienced a horrible sophomore campaign.

With no support from a new Browns management team that didn’t draft him, Weeden was on a short leash last season and ended up getting thoroughly outplayed by both Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell.

Now 30, he’s just three years younger than Tony Romo, the quarterback Jones already wishes he had given more talent to win the Super Bowl with.

Weeden has much to learn and little time. To put his 23-game career arc in perspective, at the same age, Drew Bledsoe had already ceded his job to Tom Brady in New England after nine full seasons at the helm.

Weeden was presumably signed to provide another training camp arm and insurance, should Romo need more time to heal his back and backup Kyle Orton retire, an unlikely scenario given that he would have to pay the club some $3 million dollars from his signing bonus.
However, if Weeden were to get considerable playing time next season, due to injury or circumstance, there’s little evidence to support the theory that the team will succeed. Unless the goal is to get a higher draft slot.

More likely, Weeden will be the backup in 2015, when the club can let Orton walk.

Will he be ready then? At $623,000 a season, it's not much of a risk. Just like McClain and Mincey. But there may not be much reward either. Which is why they're so readily available.