hole-plugger. Just a one-year deal and just a $100,000 signing bonus. Why, if the Cowboys want to draft a safety, go right ahead, this contract certainly isn't stopping them from doing so. While Pool (27) is advertised as a better cover guy, one with more range as a free safety than Abe Elam, he's going to have to prove he's a keeper. Again, no progress-stopper.
And that brings us to Conner, maybe best described – so far – as a poor man's Keith Brooking, and definitely younger, Conner just 26 while Brooking is on his way toward 37. Connor, a quality inside linebacker whose four-year career has been marred by two seasons of serious injuries, is insurance against last year's second-round pick Bruce Carter not being ready to step in as the other inside starter alongside Sean Lee.
His contract, two years, $6.5 million with a $2.7 million signing bonus, buys Carter time after basically missing all of last offseason and training camp rehabbing the torn ACL he suffered his senior year at North Carolina, along with missing the first eight weeks of the season while on the non-football injury list. So say Connor fills the gap for just one year. Paying $3.5 million for a starting-quality linebacker isn't exactly outrageous. And if he's all that, the Cowboys would have him for 2013 for a mere $3 million base. Sort of like term insurance.
As you can see, with the exception of the $26.5 million guaranteed Carr and the $5 million signing bonus given Orton, these other guys fill gaps going into the draft. Now the Cowboys do not have to reach to simply fill a significant void at a particular position. When you start reaching in the draft, normally you end up getting your hand slapped by the draft gods.
So have the Cowboys significantly improved?
Plus remember, even if the Carr-Orton-Vickers triumvirate is the upgrade everyone envisions, the loss of third receiver Laurent Robinson and backup tight end Martellus Bennett has left significant holes at those two positions, ones that must be plugged now in the ensuing days of free agency or in the draft. Just don't believe the Cowboys have a slam dunk on hand to assume either role.
John Phillips is a nice piece to the team puzzle, but ask yourself: What would happen if Jason Witten goes down? Yeah, I know Bennett never really lived up to his second-round draft status, but at least he showed some flashes in the passing game. Phillips is what he is, a nice third tight end with limited on-the-line blocking capability.
That's why the Cowboys were chasing Kellen Davis, who ended up re-signing with the Bears.
And now on to – stop me when you last heard this need – third wide receiver. Yep, again. Same time, next year. Sure the Cowboys have some younger guys who might emerge – Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, Teddy Williams – but none is a sure thing. I mean those four guys have yet to make their first NFL reception. Third receiver, OK, maybe. But what happens if Miles Austin or Dez Bryant go down? You trusting any of those guys to start?
Yep, the Cowboys indeed re-signed Kevin Ogletree. But he's just an inexpensive insurance policy. The Cowboys didn't even bother tendering him as a minimum exclusive rights free agent ($1.26 million), instead figuring they could save cap space by letting him go free and then signing him to a one-year, fourth-year minimum of $650,000.
Who knows, maybe another Robinson godsend will descend upon them again at the beginning of this season, too. But if it were me, sure wouldn't count on such serendipitous occurrences two straight years.
If the Cowboys don't get a strike on either of these two lines still in the water, these positions certainly could become at least mid-round draft priorities. And so far they have done nothing to fill their greatest need:
Someone new to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which just has to be at this point the first-round bull's eye of the draft.
Now then, when looking at what's taken place less than two weeks into free agency, weigh the additions and weigh the subtractions. What you get?
Well ... somewhat.