IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys signed free agent linebacker Keith Rivers to a one-year deal Wednesday evening, adding depth to a position that sorely needs it.
All three of the team’s top linebackers from 2014 are set to enter free agency next week, which left the Cowboys with a glaring need at the position. It’s unlikely Rivers will fill that need all on his own, but it gives the Cowboys a veteran presence.
Rivers has played seven season in the league after being drafted No. 9 overall out of Southern Cal in 2008. He played four seasons in Cincinnati, starting 33 games and accumulating 185 tackles in three seasons. He missed the entire 2011 season with a wrist injury.
The Bengals traded Rivers to the New York Giants in 2012 in exchange for a fifth-round pick. During two seasons with the Giants, he appeared in 27 games and started 14, totaling 83 tackles. Rivers signed a two-year contract with Buffalo in 2014, but he was released last month after making just 16 tackles in 12 appearances with the Bills.
Rivers has the flexibility the Cowboys typically covet, as he has plenty of experience playing both weak side and strong side linebacker. It remains to be seen what will happen with the trio of Justin Durant, Rolando McClain and Bruce Carter, but Rivers gives the Cowboys a candidate to mix and match with Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens.
As a rookie in 2008, Rivers drew national notoriety when he broke his jaw after receiving a blindside block from Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward. The play, which ended Rivers’ rookie campaign after seven games, led to the creation of the “Hines Ward Rule,” which prevented receivers from using their helmet or shoulder to lay blocks above the shoulder.