FRISCO, Texas – As of Tuesday, the Cowboys have watched nine of their own free agents join other teams, but they've also signed nine players – including six returning from last year's 13-3 roster. The group features three free-agent newcomers: cornerback Nolan Carroll, defensive tackle Stephen Paea and defensive end Damontre Moore.
The DallasCowboys.com staff discusses which addition – either a new signing or a re-signing – helps the roster most at this point in the offseason, with free agency still underway and the draft about six weeks away:
Rob Phillips: Terrance Williams' return was a bit of a surprise, at least to me. I thought his market value might be too much for the Cowboys' limited cap space, but he's back for a reported $17 million over four years – and that's good news for Dak Prescott. As explosive and efficient as this offense was last season, let's remember that Prescott is still a young quarterback in this league who needs help around him. Williams is a capable receiver opposite Dez Bryant and an underrated blocker in the run game. The other thing his return does is eliminate wide receiver as perhaps an early-round necessity with defense – particularly pass rush and secondary help – obvious needs given the free-agent departures of so many players on that side of the ball.
David Helman: I'm going to put my faith in the abilities of Rod Marinelli for this one, given that he was on staff in Chicago when Stephen Paea was drafted by the Bears. In two seasons with Marinelli, Paea proved pretty adept at disrupting an offense, as he tallied 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks from the defensive tackle spot. His best-ever season came after Marinelli left for Dallas, but it's still worth nothing that he posted six sacks and 33 tackles in a 4-3 scheme during the 2014 season. Paea's stats have dipped considerably since he signed a big contract in Washington in 2015. He's managed just 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the last two years, earning just two starts in that timespan. The Cowboys will be hoping the difference is that he's been playing as a 3-4 defensive end during those two years, rather than a 4-3 tackle. Back with Marinelli, I'd expect that Paea will be working mainly as a nose tackle in this scheme, and he just might be able to rediscover his old disruptive form. I wouldn't bet against Marinelli coaxing some solid production out of his old draft pick.
Bryan Broaddus:To be honest, I really wasn't sure how the film of Damontre Moore was going to play out. My expectations were not high due to how I had seen him play with the Giants. Moore was a classic underachiever in every sense of the word and I was readying myself for more of the same. Give Moore and the Seahawks coaching staff a ton of credit. He looked completely different in every facet of his game. He wasn't struggling to get off blocks in the running game and that explosive quickness we saw in college showed up as a pass rusher. It was nice to finally him see him do the things that we all believed he could accomplish in this league. This addition has a George Selvie feel to it with a chance to develop into something more.
Nick Eatman: I just wrote a column suggesting the cornerback position isn't so bad right now and one of the main reasons is the addition of Nolan Carroll. He's my pick for this list because without him, you might be in full-blown panic mode. That's not to say Carroll is going to be outstanding, but let's be honest, neither were the two guys who just left. To me, I see Carr and Carroll as similar players. So that's why I give the edge here to Carroll. You could say that Paea replaces Terrell McClain and Moore fills the void left behind by Jack Crawford. Carroll is a savvy veteran who has size and strength and can find the ball. He's not afraid to tackle, so he should pair up nicely with Scandrick and Anthony Brown and probably another rookie or two added in the draft.