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Big Bucks Replace Cheap Hope Columnist 
March 8, 2004, 5:44 p.m. (CST)   


But if we're just talking 2005, maybe 2006 and 2007, then the Cowboys have seemed to fill some necessary needs with some necessary players. 

"Good players, all of them," said one NFL scout who seemed a tad surprised the going rate was so high. 

Of Henry: "I think he's a good player," and another NFL source said the same, pointing out the four-year veteran might not be a great player but could be better than he was in Cleveland, where he was disenchanted. Obviously this person didn't see who the Cowboys were playing with at right corner last year - or for that matter the years before that. 

Of Rivera: "Even though he went to the Pro Bowl, maybe not that great, but is he good enough to help you win? Yes." 

Of Ferguson: "Good football player - two-gap, nose," and he didn't seemed concerned with Ferguson turning 31 in November, saying, "Yeah, yeah, he's OK, he hasn't been beaten up. The Jets desperately wanted him back." 

Oh, yeah, one more. Let's not forget Drew Bledsoe, who obviously the Cowboys didn't overpay, at least not with the $2 million bonus or the $5 million of guaranteed money: "He's a better quarterback than Testaverde. If you keep him upright, he can play - still throw it in there. But you got to protect him." 

So for those out there worried the Cowboys might have overspent for these free agents, just remember Bertrand Berry. The Cowboys, in dire need of a pass-rushing defensive end, failed to immediately lay the cash on the line last year and the Cardinals beat them to the punch. Berry finished with 14½ sacks in 2004. The Cowboys fallback guy, Marcellus Wiley, finished with three. Berry's still in Arizona. Wiley is looking for a job. 

This time around, the Cowboys decided to get their guy, if they were convinced this was their guy. Parcells vouched for Ferguson, no doubt. New secondary coach Todd Bowles did the same for Henry, having coached him in Cleveland the past four years. 

And as for Rivera, his nine years in the league and priceless intangibles vouched for him. I mean, did you listen to Jones last week? 

"By Marco joining our team we basically change in my mind some of the mentality, the skill level . . . all of a sudden we change what the offensive line is about mentally as well as physically," Jones said. "That's how significant the signing of the guy next to me is." 

There was a comfort zone this year with these players that was missing last year, and maybe why the Cowboys chose to mostly to become mostly free-agent bystanders and hope for the best with what they had. 

But no way could they hope again, at least not at these three key positions, and for sure, not at safety, where some work still needs to be done. If they had - or do at safety again - shame on them. 

The reality of 6-10 will do that to you.   


!   OK, while the Cowboys appear to be taking a deep, free-agency breath after last Thursday's hectic pace, they still have some work to do. And I know the draft is around the corner, but seems as though defensive end, safety, right tackle, backup running back and possibly linebacker need addressing. 
!   See where Troy Hambrick re-signed with the Cardinals for two years. Ya know, had he kept his mouth shut, what a good fit he would have been as a backup to Julius Jones. 
!   Too bad the system prevents guys like Dexter Coakley from finishing their careers out where they began. But hey, his agent, Pat Dye Jr., did a nice job. Coakley goes from being asked to take a pay cut by the Cowboys to having $3 million placed in his hands by the Rams.                              

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