Ellis: Ranking FA Deals Top To Bottom

IRVING, Texas -By definition, you're going to overpay more often than not in free agency.

After all, the Cowboys only signed these seven newcomers because they were willing to pay more than anyone else. It stands to reason that the NFL consensus is that these guys aren't quite as good as their new paychecks would suggest.

In an ideal world, you'd be drafting so well that you wouldn't need to sign a single free agent. The Green Bay Packers haven't added anyone from the open market since 2009. Most other teams haven't been so lucky, or so good.

In the Cowboys' case, there's not much point in taking the slow road. With the window to win behind Tony Romo running out, they decided it was better to try to make something happen.

So the team has tried to fill as many holes as possible, and probably isn't done yet. The dust has settled momentarily though, providing as good a chance as any to look at what's been done to this point. It's one man's opinion, and we know the simile there, but this is my take on the eight signings so far, in a best-to-worst ranking.

1. Kyle Orton -Three years and $10.5 million would seem like a lot to pay someone who you hope never steps on the field, but having a good backup quarterback is precious insurance in this NFL. And actually, Orton's contract isn't a significant increase over what Jon Kitna had been paid the last three years. Considering how beaten up Tony Romo has been since 2008, it's nice to have arguably the best backup in the league. And by the way, conventional wisdom is that Romo will be the Cowboys' starter far beyond the 2013 season, when his deal is up, but if the cost of re-signing him is prohibitive and he's in an obvious decline, you could do worse than Orton, who is two-and-a-half years younger.

2. LB Dan Connor -Bruce Carter still has a good chance to win a starting job, but the Cowboys needed another good, up-and-coming inside linebacker anyway. He's shown a good deal of promise already, and the team didn't go overboard on the length and cost of his contract, two years and $6.5 million. He's an upgrade from the thirtysomethings who he'll replace.

3. CB Brandon Carr -He gets roughly the same contract as Cortland Finnegan, but he's two years younger, he's bigger and he's been more of a playmaker over the last couple years. If the Cowboys had to have one or the other, they picked correctly. It's the cost of doing business, but's that's a mighty big deal for a cornerback whose previous team decided to let him walk. Because of the sheer size of the contract, it is the riskiest.

4. FB Lawrence Vickers -By their own account, the Cowboys have thought highly of Vickers for a while. He was a big part of Arian Foster's success this past year, and led the way for Peyton Hillis the year before that. With Martellus Bennett gone, the Cowboys could use a fullback more often than they use a second tight end.

5. Brodney Pool- He wasn't the Jets' starter last year until Jim Leonhard was hurt, and people in New York aren't sweating his departure, but Pool had his best season under Rob Ryan back in 2009. He's still relatively young, and more athletic than Abram Elam, and it's only a one-year deal. Even if the Cowboys draft a safety, he'll be useful for depth purposes.

6. Mackenzy Bernadeau -Entering his prime, Bernadeau might end up be viewed as an upgrade for the Cowboys at either center or guard. His four-year, $11 million deal is less than the Cowboys paid for a comparable player back in 2006, Kyle Kosier. His presence shouldn't necessarily stop the Cowboys from drafting an upgrade, though, in which case the team will be paying significant money to a backup interior lineman. Didn't they just draft a bunch of those guys last year?

7. Nate Livings -Sue me, I haven't watched every Bengals game for the last two years, but it's bothersome that a lot of people who have don't think much of the guy. Evidently the Cowboys believe he's got something, as they signed him to a five-year deal worth some $19 million, with more than $6 million guaranteed. The contract probably assures him of a starting job at least to begin with, but he's the Cowboys' oldest signing at age 30 already, which makes it doubtful he sees that fifth year. Maybe he'll surprise everybody, but it seems more likely that the team will have to bite the bullet on his deal sometime before 2016, eating some deferred signing bonus money. Because of their age and projected roles, the same can't be said for the other signings.

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