IRVING, Texas – It’s hard to believe it’s only been 10 days, given the amount of change that’s happened in Dallas recently.
The Cowboys have parted ways with several Pro Bowlers, and they’ve added another one to their roster. Hall of Famers and journeymen alike have change teams – some departing for division rivals. Those same rivals haven’t been idle, either, as they’ve made moved to improve their own fortunes.
In just 10 days, the landscape has changed for both the Cowboys and their division. Below is a look at the top 10 moves in those 10 days that are sure to impact the team and the NFC East race in the coming season.
9. Phil Costa signs with Indianapolis – Costa’s move matters more for depth than anything else. He was about as solid a backup center as the Cowboys could have hoped for, and they now lack an interior backup presence on the line.
8. Cowboys sign Brandon Weeden - Whether or not
7. Miles Austin is released – Judging purely from his 2013 production, it’s hard to classify Austin as a huge loss. But there’s no denying his impact as one of the franchise’s top playmakers from 2009 to 2012. The decision to part ways with the two-time Pro Bowler also leaves the Cowboys thin at the wide receiver position
6. Cowboys add Mincey, McClain – In the absence of Ware, Mincey now becomes the Cowboys’ career sack leader. As a definite member of the rotation and a possible starter, the Cowboys are undoubtedly hoping Mincey discovers his 2011 form, when he notched eight sacks for Jacksonville. McClain’s deal had a lot more to do with potential than past stats. He had a better year statistically in 2011 with the 4-3 Panthers than he did in 2013 with the 3-4 Texans. His fit as an interior lineman in Dallas should allow him be more disruptive than he was last year.
5. New weapon in Philly – Chip Kelly’s offense had no problem clicking without Darren Sproles as a rushing and receiving threat, so it’ll be interesting to see what the Eagles can do with the shifty back. Philadelphia traded a fifth-round pick to New Orleans for Sproles, who notched at least 71 receptions and at least 604 receiving yards in each of the past three years. A backfield of LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Sproles could give a re-worked Cowboys defense fits. The Eagles also added another Saint, safety Malcolm Jenkins, as an upgrade to their secondary.
4. New York adds key pieces – Nothing the Giants have done in free agency is going to jump off the page as a splashy signing, but they made several sensible signings that should upgrade a team that finished 7-9. New York added guard Geoff Scwhartz to help a leaky offensive line. They lost Hakeem Nicks and Ryan Mundy to free agency, but they brought back two key cogs in Jon Beason and Stevie Brown. Cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond should upgrade the secondary, while the return of Mario Manningham should help offset the loss of Nicks.
3. Hatcher Signs with Washington – This might not be as high if he hadn’t signed with the rival Redskins. But facing a former teammates can always make for interesting games. Hatcher is going back to the 3-4 defense, a scheme he never fully shined in. Clearly, he will be motivated to face his former team and who knows if the Redskins can find a way to make him a major factor in their defense.
2. Melton Signs – The loss of Hatcher opened the door for Henry Melton to sign a one-year contract with a club option for three more years. That seems to be a good scenario for the Cowboys, who might have had some injury concerns with Melton rehabbing from an ACL injury. Melton is younger at 27, and had his best years under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, when the two were in Chicago.
1. Ware Released; Signs with Denver – The Cowboys’ all-time sack leader and future Ring of Honor member, is no longer with the organization that drafted him in 2005. Ware’s only missed three games in his career but his injuries have piled up the last two years. The Cowboys simply decided Ware wouldn’t be able to return to the form that has made him one of the best pass-rushers in the game. He signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Broncos, who made several free-agent splashes this offseason, but none bigger than acquiring Ware.