OXNARD, Calif. - There were arguably no big splashes made by the Dallas Cowboys in free agency, but they changed that during the first week of padded practices. Having now signed four-time Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr to the roster, they've not simply made a splash, but someone should probably issue a storm surge warning to NFL offenses around the league.
For while there still exists a myriad of questions to be answered by the team's offense ahead of the 2022 season, the defense is shaping up to again be the strength of the roster - as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn looks to "adapt" an already proven scheme.
That adaptation now includes Barr, but free agency is a two-way street, so what was it that led Barr to giving the Cowboys the green light in July, and following months of interest from the club?
Well, the answer is simple: relationships and team potential.
"Obviously, I have some connection with [senior defensive assistant] George Edwards - being in Minnesota - we got real close while I was out there, and we've had some success," Barr said in his first media appearance at training camp. "I've heard nothing but great things about [Dan Quinn], and how he operates."
"And I think Dallas is a contender. I wanted to be on a team I think has a chance to win. I wanted an opportunity to play at a high level, and I'm excited to be here."
Barr and Edwards established a connection at the outset of his NFL career, the latter having joined the Vikings as defensive coordinator in 2014 before selling the team on making the former their first-round pick (ninth-overall) that same spring.
They'd go on to make defensive music together from that point forward, evidenced by all four of his Pro Bowl nods having been earned prior to Edwards departing Minnesota to join the Cowboys coaching staff.
Having missed just 11 games in his six seasons under Edwards, Barr logged a total of 85 starts and, in that span, became one of the best linebackers in football.
"Happy to be working with him again," Barr said of his reunion with Edwards.
That prime form (Optimus, if you will) is what Edwards, Quinn and Barr himself are expecting to see happen in Dallas, and the 30-year-old also has the added motivation of being on just a one-year deal, meaning he'll have to prove he's still got the juice - much akin to what safety Malik Hooker did last season before signing a new deal in 2022. To that point, while Barr is beginning camp on the team's physically unable to perform (PUP) list, it's not health-related.
It's because he needs to ramp up.
"It's been seven, eight months since I've been on the field," Barr said. "It's just an acclimation period. I feel great. My body feels great. It's about getting up to speed mentally, more so than physically, and once I get there I can hit the ground running."
So, what will the role be for Barr?
At first blush, it'll be to utilize his versatility to allow Parsons to key in more often on pinning his ears back and launching himself toward the opposing quarterback. His coverage abilities will certainly come in handy in that capacity, a player who grabbed three interceptions and registered five pass break ups in 11 starts last year.
His presence is expected to not only make it more difficult to key in solely on Parsons, but Cox will now have a proven and still-impactful linebacker to glean intel and insight from as he readies himself to also become a big piece of what Quinn is planning to execute going forward.
"I have an idea [of what my role will be]," Barr said. "As I get going and camp gets rolling, I'll have a better idea. … I'm just trying to be the best I can be for this team.
"I'm willing to do whatever I'm asked to do to help the team go out there and get victories. I'm a smart player, a capable player and I'm sure [Quinn] will find certain ways to use me."
And you can bet your bottom dollar he's looking forward to playing alongside a talent like Parsons.
"I'm just gonna try to help him continue to unlock his game, and to be the best player he can be," added Barr, his tone peaking with a tinge of excitement when discussing his view of Parsons. "He had a great start last year - pretty amazing what he was able to accomplish. And I think he can just continue to elevate and to take it to the next level. I'm hoping to be a tool, a resource to him but to also learn from him and the other guys."
Barr is healthy, motivated and instantly upgrades an already good defensive unit that was often top-3 in the NFL in many categories.
"I come in humble and ready to learn, and ready to help."