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Mick Shots: Nothing Is Free About Free Agency


FRISCO, Texas – Well, well, beware the free agent.

Folks sure grow tired of me pointing this out during free agency: There is a reason a guy is a free agent. Someone didn't want him.

Sure, I get it, not 100-percent true. There are exceptions. Sometimes salary cap rules, although if the guy is good enough and plays a pivotal position, teams don't allow that guy to hit free agency.

My point has always been don't get seduced by a guy's name. Might not be as good as he once was.

So if you are scoring the Cowboys' 2020 free-agent class at home, here is what you got:

Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Didn't make the team. Dead money: $2.25 million.

Defensive end Everson Griffen. Traded. Dead money: $2.54 million.

Defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Cut. Dead money: $2.25 million.

Cornerback Daryl Worley. Cut. Dead money: $2.25 million.

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Released injured. Dead money $1.1 million.

Cornerback Brandon Carr. Released. Dead Money: $259,000.

Offensive tackle Cam Erving. Likely starting at left tackle again. Jury still out on him, injuries and illnesses getting in his way.

Offensive lineman Jordan Mills. An eighth-year veteran, but still on the practice squad.

Cornerback Maurice Canady. Opted out.

Quarterback Andy Dalton. In concussion protocol. Jury still out, but at least there is encouraging hope for the backup QB.

Kicker Greg Zuerlein. Team's leading scorer with 44 points. Has made 10 of 12 field-goal attempts (both misses from 50-plus yards) and 14 of 16 on extra points. Maybe the best of a poor harvest.

Get my drift? To me, free agency is not a panacea to rebuilding your team. Specially guys on one- or two-years deals, a sign those types of guys are mere band-aids. They have no sweat-equity involved.

There, took my opening shot.

  • Why Griffen? Seven games into a season, to me, just seemed to be an independent contractor. Just hunting sacks. Not very interested in setting the run-defense-edge at defensive end. A liability against the run. Not sure if he had an inkling, but Sunday against Washington was his most extensive and best performance. Played 56.5 percent of the snaps, his most in the past five games. Recorded four tackles, one sack ( 2.5 in seven games) and two QB pressures. But the Cowboys figured he would be just a one-and-done, nothing to sink their teeth into, and thus a progress-stopper. More snaps now for Randy Gregory and Bradlee Anae. Aldon Smith, too.
  • Cleaning House: Somewhat of a purge on the defensive side of the ball, the reason for releasing Poe and Worley. Poe certainly was nowhere close to the player head coach Mike McCarthy might have remembered from his days in Kansas City. If someone picks him up that will be his fourth team in four seasons. There is a reason for that. And the Cowboys need not look any further than his last three games, counting 90 snaps with not even one assisted tackle, let alone a tackle or QB pressure. Zeroed out in all three. Same for Worley. Nada. And when the corner/safety played just one snap Sunday night at Washington, the writing was on the wall. Plus, Chidobe Awuzie looks like he should be back for Sunday night's game at Philadelphia. And let's be clear about the Cowboys' move owner Jerry Jones promised on Tuesday. This is not a sell-off, as baseball teams like to do when knowing they are out of the race. This is getting rid of dead weight, pun intended.
  • Dead Last: That is, and no surprise, in NFL run defense after seven games, the Cowboys giving up 178.3 yards a game, ranking 32nd. How bad is that? Well, the most yards per game the Cowboys have ever given up in a single year is 172.4 in their inaugural 1960 season. The only two previous times the Cowboys have finished dead last in rushing defense came in 1960 and then in 1963, 14th in a 14-team NFL. Yep, that bad.
  • Obvious Man: McCarthy thought he might be getting punked Wednesday during his conference call when asked, "Is it harder to prepare a game plan for a young guy like Ben DiNucci than it is for a Dalton or Dak?" First laughter, then "Is it harder?" McCarthy said chuckling still. "Was I not supposed to laugh at that? That's kind of hard to tell with your mask on. I didn't know if you were serious." Heck, I could have answered that one. Well, yeah, it's harder for a rookie, seventh-round pick with no offseason to speak of, limited training camp, no preseason snaps and stepping into his first practice Wednesday with the Cowboys first-team offense.
  • Turnovers Growing: Maybe that's a good thing when baking apple turnovers, but not a good thing in football. Bad enough the Cowboys started Game 7 with a NFL low minus-12 turnover differential. But that has now increased to a minus-13. But at least there was only one in the loss to Washington, giving the Cowboys a league-high 16 turnovers. And it could have been worse since the Cowboys recovered all three of their fumbles, unfortunately one in the end zone for a safety. Misery, though, has some company come Sunday night in Philly. The Eagles have turned the ball over 13 times, 10 of those Carson Wentz interceptions.
  • Historical Oddity: So we heard over and over again Tuesday night that the Dodgers won their first World Series title in 32 years, not since 1988 when beating Oakland 4 games to 1. That year the Dodgers clinched the title on Oct. 20, coincidently with the NFL heading into Week 8 of that season. Just as they have in 2020. And back then in 1988, the Cowboys were sitting, uh, 2-5, heading to, uh, Philadelphia. Seriously, look it up. Same thing 32 years later. The Cowboys would lose that Game 8 in 1988, 24-23, on their way to a 3-13 finish, their worst record since going 0-11-1 in their inaugural 1960 campaign. That would be head coach Tom Landry's final season, but the epic losing did allow the Cowboys to turn the worst record in the NFL that year into the first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft, netting them one Troy Aikman.
  • Last Shots: Guess maybe Garrett Gilbert hasn't impressed the Cowboys coaching staff as the backup quarterback at least for this week behind rookie Ben DiNucci with Andy Dalton in concussion protocol and looking doubtful to be cleared in time for Sunday's game. So the Cowboys are going to sign an old hand to the practice squad, Cooper Rush, released by the Giants from their practice squad on Sept. 29. But he'll have to clear the six-day COVID protocol before allowed into the building … Great sight to see Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin on the practice field after finally clearing concussion protocol … Same for IR corner Chidobe Awuzie … And even Sean Lee and Joe Looney were practicing on Wednesday, on their way to clearing IR, if not this week then maybe next … With 53 catches in seven games, Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper ranks second in the NFL to only the 57 of Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins. "Coop" is on pace for a 121-catch season, threatening the 1995 single-season record of Michael Irvin's 111, Jason Witten one behind that at 110.

And the last word goes to McCarthy when talking about one of the problems the Cowboys are having defensively, seemingly having a problem diagnosing what's happening right in front of them.

"Everything we do on defense is about our eyes," McCarthy says. "Everything I've ever done on offense was to challenge a defender if I felt he had bad eyes."

Truer words were never spoken, these Cowboys defenders caught too many times blindly looking in the wrong places.

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