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Top 10: Where Does Tony Romo Rank Among All-Time Rookie Free Agents?
Earlier this month, the Cowboys welcomed more than 14 rookie free agents to the roster, signing the undrafted players right after the conclusion of the NFL Draft.
While there is obvious disappointment in not getting picked, signing with the Cowboys might not be a bad thing. History has shown the Cowboys have had success with players not drafted. This week’s Top 10 focuses on undrafted players, including Ring of Honor members and several All-Pro and Pro Bowl performers.
10. Miles Austin – In his rookie season, he wasn’t even the best rookie free agent receiver on the team, as he was constantly getting out-performed by Sam Hurd. But as time went on, Austin not only developed into a starting receiver, but earned two Pro Bowls. His 250-yard receiving game, including the game-winning overtime TD to beat Kansas City is one of the best individual performances in club history.
9. Dan Bailey – Another guy who barely made out of his first training camp. Bailey was one of five kickers during the 2011 camp, but the Cowboys decided to go with Bailey for his upside. Despite a shaky start to his career, it wasn’t long before Bailey started making game-winners, including four in his rookie year. Now, he’s the third-leading scorer in Cowboys history, with a Pro Bowl under his belt and he ranks second in field goal accuracy at 89.5 percent, just behind Baltimore’s Justin Tucker for the top spot.
8. Bill Bates – A true fan favorite, Bates won the hearts from Cowboys Nation by his willingness and relentless style of play, especially on special teams. Bates is one of the reasons the NFL decided to add a Pro Bowl spot for special teams players. Over the years, Bates racked up more tackles on special teams (216) than any other player in franchise history – 82 more than Darren Woodson, who sits in second place. Bates is also tied for 18th in Cowboys history with 14 interceptions.
7. Mark Tuinei – While he started his career as a defensive lineman, Tuinei eventually switched sides of the ball, and eventually became a Pro Bowl player on one of the best offensive lines in club history. Sometimes a forgotten piece to the O-lines that featured Larry Allen, Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski, Tuinei quietly did his job for 15 years, playing in 195 games – eighth most in Cowboys history.
6. Everson Walls – While he put together one of the best rookie seasons of any player in NFL history with 11 interceptions in 1981, Walls didn’t stop there. He went on to make three Pro Bowls as one of the best corners in the league for most of the decade. Walls ranks second in Cowboys history with 44 interceptions.
5. Nate Newton – He wasn’t with the Cowboys at the start of his career, but still went undrafted, playing for the Redskins and some in the USFL. When he finally got to Dallas, Newton spent some time on a few bad teams before being part of the NFL’s best O-line of his era. Newton made six Pro Bowls, the second-most by a guard in franchise history behind only Larry Allen.
4. Cornell Green – He wasn’t drafted by NFL teams because he was more focused on basketball at the time, but when Green got to Dallas, it wasn’t long before the Cowboys knew they had quite a defensive player. He played both safety and corner and wound up with 34 interceptions, tied for fifth in franchise history.
3. Cliff Harris – A Ring of Honor member, Harris was voted an All-Decade safety for the 1970’s. He teamed up with Charlie Waters to form a dynamic duo in the secondary. Harris was not only a punisher hitter, but a rangy athlete that found the ball in his hands. Harris had 29 career interceptions.
2. Drew Pearson – A quarterback in college at Tulsa, Pearson made a rather seamless transition to receiver, and quickly became one of Roger Staubach’s favorite targets. Over the course of his career, Pearson found himself involved in some of the Cowboys’ best memorable moments., including his clutch TD against the Falcons in the 1980 playoffs, his long touchdown catch from Clint Longley in the 1974 Thanksgiving Day comeback, his downfield blocking for Tony Dorsett’s 99-yard run, and of course, the Hail Mary touchdown to beat the Vikings in the 1975 playoffs.
1. Tony Romo – While he’s not in the Ring of Honor – just yet – Romo takes the No. 1 spot simply for his jump from Eastern Illinois to the face of the franchise for America’s Team. It’s been well-documented that Romo won just two playoff games as a starter, but considering the state of the franchise when he took over, he gets credit for elevating the team to a more competitive level. He left the Cowboys this offseason as the leader in passing yards, touchdowns and QB rating. Read