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Mick Shots: Free Agency Gone Wild . . . Again


FRISCO, Texas – Happens every spring time, or, NFL New Year.

Without fail.

Teams jump head first into the start of free agency. Unabashedly spending gobs of money to sign other folks' castoffs, quite opposite of the neighbors' garage sales when car after car pulls up looking for a bargain. But in free agency, there are never any bargains. Especially the first day – the first week.

And too many times these dives into the deep end then end up in face-splitting, quite expensive belly flops.

See Jacksonville signing Malik Jackson in 2016 for six years, $85.8 million, with $42 million guaranteed. By 2018 he lost his starting job. By March of 2019 he's reportedly being cut. Pay didn't match production.

The New York Giants in 2016 signed Olivier Vernon to a five-year, $84.75 million contract. He's being traded away in 2019, the Giants eating $8 million in cap space. Why? He was owed $15.25 million in base this year. For what? His seven sacks from 2018? That's a sack more than Randy Gregory, 1.5 more than Tyrone Crawford.

See ya, buddy.

The Broncos signed Case Keenum in 2018 to a two-year, $36 million deal, with $25 million guaranteed. A year later, gone, being traded to Washington. Wonder how that $8 million in dead money tastes today a Mile High?

And Kansas City? Eric Berry? Released? Costing the Chiefs $14.95 million in dead money for the now 30-year-old safety? Just two seasons after signing a six-year, $78 million deal, with $40 million guaranteed?

But too many of you watch the Cowboys patiently wait out this first wave of free agency. Teeth start gnashing. Fists start pounding the table. Turning in your official Dallas Cowboys fan card. You're out.

Happening right now. Happened last year. And the year before that. Probably every year for at least the past five years.

Pulling your hair out because all the Cowboys do on the first day is agree to re-sign their own: fullback Jamize Olawale and Cameron Fleming.

Yuck, right.

OK, now my turn to take my shots.

·      Finally Over: No ET. Thank goodness. Let Baltimore pay the 30-year-old Earl Thomas with two broken legs in the past three years $55 million over five years, with $32 million fully guaranteed and $22 million in cash stuffed into this year. Bottom line, with all these sources swirling around, maintaining Thomas was destined to be signed by the Cowboys, that they were going to chase him with money after offering Seattle a second-rounder for him last season – well, uh, not true. And I'm told, not even close. The Cowboys weren't interested. And wanted nothing to do with Thomas wanting to become the highest paid safety in the NFL. They were committed to moving on, and held true, even after seven safeties not named Thomas agreed to terms the previous two days. Telling you guys, beware the high-priced 30-year-old commanding beaucoup guaranteed money on what's likely to be his last contract. Think the Cowboys finally learned their lesson. Oh, and if you need a giggle, Jeff Heath's five interceptions over the past three years total only two fewer than the $55 million man and while counting just $2.95 million against this year's cap.

·     Sign Your Own: Do the Cowboys get credit for franchising and attempting to sign to a long-term deal DeMarcus Lawrence, ranked by nearly everyone the top free-agent in the market this year? Doesn't that count? And what about trying to figure out how to lessen Amari Cooper's $14 million base salary this year by signing him to a long-term deal at age 24? Then Dak Prescott eventually and Ezekiel Elliott, who if not suspended six games in 2017 would be three-for-three winning NFL rushing titles? Oh, and maybe Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones, in the last year of his contract, to a long-term deal? Man, it's a darn good thing the Cowboys were able to rollover the $11.7 million leftover from last year into this year's cap, pushing their total to right at $200 million. And right now, with Lawrence's franchise tag taking up $20 million, and taking into account only the top 51 while counting the $4 million allotment for their draft, they are at roughly $24.5 million under the cap.

·     Cole Cash: Three reasons why Cole Beasley no longer is a Cowboy. First, Buffalo guaranteed him on his four-year, $29 million deal roughly $2.5 million more than the Cowboys were offering and like millions more if he is able to complete the life of the contract. Second, Beasley seemed bound and determined to move on for greener (Buffalo?) pastures. And lastly, he was starting to becoming a complainer, I think, in the Cowboys' eyes. But hey, he will be missed. And let's not minimize Beasley leading the Cowboys in receptions during the 2016 season with 75 catches and with 833 receiving yards and second with five touchdowns, with a rookie QB. And this past season, he led all receivers with 65 catches. But again, beware the 30-year-old. Now just go find you a younger, maybe even more versatile replacement.

·     Last Earl Word: Hey, the guy's been a really good player. But now ask yourself, did the Cowboys get beat 30-22 in the second round of the playoffs by the L.A. Rams, the eventual NFC champs, because of the safety play that Saturday at the Coliseum? And be honest. Because just to jog your memory, the Rams trampled over the Cowboys' defense for 273 yards rushing. Two-seventy-three, my gosh. And their offense barely scored 22 points. So, if you were on a budget, and needed to spend money to correct those shortcomings, where would you start spending your money? Also remember, once Cooper showed up, including the playoffs, they went 8-3 over the final 11 games he played. All that, and with the present safeties, a defense finishing seventh in the NFL, the highest finish for the Cowboys since ranking No. 1 in 2003. OK, out.

·     Scatter Shots: Wow, the Giants eating $21 million in dead money to trade away Odell Beckham Jr. Granted they received a first and third, and safety Jabrill Peppers. Maybe that helps land them their next QB by packaging their sixth and 17th picks to go to the top of the draft. But who is the guy throwing to? Looks like at this point Sterling Shepard, Corey Coleman, Alonzo Russell and a bunch of guys named Bob . . . Bet the Cowboys loved the deal, not having to cover OBJ twice a year anymore . . . So, by the Chiefs trading franchised-pass rusher Dee Ford to San Francisco, the first of those franchised sack men has been signed to a long-term deal, Ford averaging $17.5 million over five years ($87.5). That means DeMarcus Lawrence's guy will be at least asking for five years, $90 million but closer to $100 million with way more than half guaranteed. Bet another domino or three must fall before the two sides come to terms.