Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Free Agency Target

Before I settle in too much to the NFL Combine activity, I did want to cover one more regular topic in my email box about current veterans who are all out on the street and whether or not the Cowboys should get involved to address some rather sizable issues on the defense.

There are 4 names that are popular to discuss, and I have varying opinions on each one. But, I am pretty sure I know which one can really help the Cowboys this coming season the most - and he won't be the most expensive, either. So, let's jump right into it:

Nmandi Asomugha - CB - Oakland - 6'2 - 210 - 29 years old

Certainly in the discussion for best Corner in the NFL, Asomugha is a very elite talent who seems to often shut down his side of the field for business. The real issue here is not the level of quality, but rather the price to acquire the talent. There is very little question that any powder you have kept dry to improve this team in this offseason, would be allocated for this purchase. Is corner a need on this team? Yes. Is it a need at the expense of all others? Not in my opinion. I have quite a few needs on the squad, and if I was one player away, I would have no issue bringing in Asomugha. His age bothers me a bit, but the price that will likely land at $1million per game is more preventative.

However, if Jerry Jones did deem this a worthy purchase, you would comfortably have one of the best "press" corners in the league and given that Rob Ryan plays a ton more press coverage than Wade Phillips or the Cowboys have, this would be a key addition. I am not sure how successful the Cowboys current corners will be when asked to play press constantly. There has been a bit too much "off and soft" corner play in recent seasons for my taste.

Bob Sanders - S - Indianapolis - 5'8 - 206 - 30 years old

The concept of adding Bob Sanders to this secondary to help sort out the many issues at both the safety position in specific and the secondary in general is very tempting. The fact is that he is an exceptional talent who does everything well back there. Sadly, the reality of signing Bob Sanders is the reality of bringing in a player who is not on the football field very often. He has played in 48 games as a professional football player. He has missed 64 because of injury. He has played in 9 of the last 48 games the Colts have scheduled. I could sit here and list for you the great things he does on the field, but honestly, when a player misses 80% of a team's games over 3 seasons, I must tell you that I would question your sanity if you wanted to then bring him in to solve your issues.

I was once told by a wise man that "the problem with injury-prone players is that they tend to get injured". It seems like many emailers are forgetting that. Yes, you can "take a flier" on him. But, unless you have another player who is also a good option brought in with him, you are risking your whole season on a poor risk. I just cannot do this.

Shaun Rogers - DT/DE - Cleveland - 6'4 - 350 - 32 year old (in March)

Since the day the Cowboys decided they would rather have Quincy Carter and Tony Dixon over Shaun Rogers, many Cowboys fans (who also fervently follow the Big 12 South) have rued the day that they passed on the disruptive talent from Texas. There are very few players who dazzle the highlight films and embarrass the lineman trying to block him like Shaun Rogers. You could make a reel every season of 10-20 plays that might suggest he is among the best players in the league. The problem is that those small doses are not representative of his play over the course of his career.

At times, his motor has been questioned. Some of have asked - especially during his days in Detroit - "how much does he enjoy football?". But, his body is the real issue here. His body is beat up. He was never in great shape and now the wear and tear have had an effect on keeping him on the field. He played only 405 snaps for the Browns last season, being used quite a bit as a nickel situation pass rusher. Ahtyba Rubin was actually the Browns' true nose tackle in their 3-4, and Rogers would be kicked out to DE quite a bit.

There is no question his name is interesting. His highlights are tempting. But, I would pass. However, nobody knows Shaun Rogers like Rob Ryan should know him. If he is the type of player who Ryan is willing to argue for in personnel meetings, then my opinion is to trust his eye. But, it would have to be at a very attractive price. And, with teams sniffing around Rogers, I am not sure the Cowboys can get a bargain here. Otherwise, a 32-year old with a questionable motor and even more questionable health just doesn't seem like the wise move that most teams would be making.

OJ Atogwe - S - St Louis Rams - 5'11 - 205 - 30 year old (in June)

In 2006, the Green Bay Packers signed a DB who was about to be 30 years old that most teams were not pursuing. Charles Woodson has spent the last 5 seasons as the talisman of the Packers' defense by blitzing, ball hawking, organizing, and doing what needed to be done. It might be difficult to promise the same level of success if the Cowboys grab Atogwe when signing commences, but after watching quite a bit of Rams film this week, I am convinced that he can do a lot to fix the Cowboys defense.

He blitzes far more than any Cowboys DB ever has - in 2010, he blitzed 62 times. The entire Cowboys secondary blitzed 50 times combined. He covers well in Centerfield. He tackles pretty well. All of those things check out. He also stays on the field as he hardly ever gets hurt.

But here are the numbers that really get me excited - Forced Fumbles From 2006-2010:

Defensive BackForced Fumbles
Tillman, Chi18
Atogwe, StL16
Dawkins, Phi/Den14
Woodson, GB13
Harper, NO12

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And now Interceptions from 2006-2010

Defensive BackInterceptions
Samuel, NE/Phi36
Reed, Balt32
Woodson, GB30
Hall, ATL/Oak/Wash24
Atogwe, StL21

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Did you notice the two names to show up on both lists? Charles Woodson and OJ Atogwe.

One is 34 years old and not available anyway. And one is a free agent and will not turn 30 until summer. Of the 4 names above on my list, Asomugha is the best player. But the one you need the most? OJ Atogwe could fix a lot of what ails you on this defense in 2011.

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