IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – Welcome to "Legal Tampering Day'' in the NFL and a meshing of the philosophies of the four men who run the Dallas Cowboys.
On Wednesday, the start of the NFL business year, teams can sign restricted free agents. But today opens a window of discussion and negotiation and (privately) done deals that will be announced as "done'' on and after Wednesday.
The four philosophies and how they mesh:
Coach Jason Garrett prefers the "RKG.'' The "Right Kind of Guy.'' Understandable; he's the one who has to deal with the players on a daily basis.
Personnel boss Will McClay is in charge of evaluating talent. "RKG''? The cap? As a future GM in this league, he has a keen awareness of all of that. But in free agency and in the draft less than two months from now, his focus is on talent.
COO Stephen Jones is in charge of the vault. The Cowboys don't have a cap problem ... and he'd like to keep it that way. "I'm not a big fan of free agency; I'll be the first to admit it," Jones says. "Unfortunately, good players get paid like they're great players, average players get paid like they're good players and it's a domino effect. It's not a great way to put your team together."
Free agency is, however, an important tool in the toolbox of team-building. Stephen knows this.
And then there is owner Jerry Jones, and no, his driving force isn't "bright, shiny objects.'' Really, in free agency, his big-money overpayments make up a very short list. Truth: Jerry's driving force here is a philosophy borrowed from the late Al Davis, the Raiders boss and Jones mentor who always believed that reclamation projects involving former first-round picks were valuable because somebody once thought them special ... so maybe there is still "specialness'' in there.
Put all four of those philosophies together a year ago and you sign running back Darren McFadden on the cheap and he rushes for 1,000 yards. Now, it doesn't always work; QB Brandon Weeden is an ex-first-round pick and that didn't quite work out here. But quality guys with talent who are affordable reclamation projects due to pedigree?
That's how Atlanta defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn (former first-round pick) is going to end up a Cowboy this week. It's why Chargers cornerback Patrick Robinson (former first-round pick) is worth monitoring. It's why Dallas' own free agents like Rolando McClain and Morris Claiborne (you guessed it, former first-round picks, prioritizes inside Valley Ranch along with James Hanna and Jack Crawford) are already being recruited back.
Stephen won't go shopping in a flashy way. But I bet he goes shopping in an "affordable-reclamation-projects-with-pedigree'' way because it meshes with one of Jerry's sharpest philosophies.
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