By Bill Jones

As NFL free agency kicks off, here’s a look at a dream Dallas Cowboys off-season player acquisition scenario:

Free Agent Signings:

  • Brandon Carr – CB – Chiefs:   the highest dollar free agent signing…many have speculated the Cowboys will opt for Tennessee’s Cortland Finnegan, primarily because of his “attitude”….I prefer Carr…he’s bigger (3 inches taller) and younger (turns 26 in May)…Carr is just one year older than Terence Newman was when the Cowboys’ 1st round draft pick in 2003.
  • Vernon Carey – OG – Dolphins:  made a successful move from RT to RG for Miami last season…at 6-4, 335 pounds, gives much needed size to interior line…a middle of the road option financially, Carey won’t break the bank and beyond being a starter at guard, he brings position flexibility since he could move out to tackle if there was an injury to either Tyron Smith or Doug Free…an often overlooked need since untested Jermey Parnell is currently the swing tackle on the roster.
  • Kyle Orton – QB – Chiefs:  no offense to Jon Kitna, but this upgrades the backup QB situation…69 career starts…80 TD passes against just 57 interceptions…29 years old, which is only one year older than Oklahoma State draft prospect Brandon Weeden…worked with Cowboys QB coach Wade Wilson after being drafted by Chicago in the 4th round in 2005.
  • Michael Robinson – FB – Seahawks: love this former Penn State QB as much for his leadership intangibles as his playing ability, and he’s played at a Pro Bowl level…doubt you can get him away from Pete Carroll in Seattle but what a great leader, special teams captain, and versatile offensive player.
  • Mike Adams – FS – Browns:  new secondary coach Jerome Henderson coached Adams in Cleveland, as did Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan…has better ball skills than Abe Elam, who has virtually none. …another short term veteran safety option….still can draft one.

And, assuming those needs are filled, here’s the March 13th version of the Cowboys 7-round Mock Draft:

Let’s start with a 1st round trade…the Cowboys trade with Miami, moving down 5 spots from #14 to #19 and pick up the Dolphins’ 3rd round pick (#74) they acquired from Chicago in the Brandon Marshall trade.  The Cowboys also should receive a compensation pick for the loss of Stephen Bowen in free agency (let’s be optimistic and call it a 4th round pick):

1st Round – Dont’a Hightower – LB – Alabama:  Cowboys won’t do this but I still stand behind my man  Dont’a….leader of the Bama defense….at 265 pounds, I project him initially as the starter alongside Sean Lee at ILB, which was his position at Alabama….he would also play on the edge, replacing Anthony Spencer at times at SOLB, giving Demarcus Ware a blow every now and then too…and thus, also creating playing time for last year’s 2nd round pick, Bruce Carter, as the 3rd ILB in passing situations…in 2013, Hightower replaces Anthony Spencer at OLB while Carter moves into starting role alongside Lee at ILB…amongst Lee, Carter, and Hightower, you are well covered in case of an injury on the inside but I think Hightower’s best position in the NFL will be as a 3-4 strongside OLB.

2nd Round – Coby Fleener – TE – Stanford:  at 6-6, 247 pounds, he gives the Cowboys a receiving TE to pair with Jason Witten in much the same way the Patriots use Gronkowski and Hernandez…has room to put on 10-12 pounds and become a Jason Witten clone…not much TE depth in free agency or the draft so if the Cowboys are going to adequately replace Martellus Bennett, they are going to need to do it in the 2nd round, the same round they drafted Bennett in 2008.  John Phillips remains a big part of the equation as the Cowboys use 3 tight ends on a regular basis.

3rd Round – Kirk Cousins – QB – Michigan State:  by trading down in the 1st round and picking up this 3rd round pick, it enables the Cowboys to select Cousins, who I consider to be the 3rd best QB prospect in this draft behind Luck and RG3…may be doubtful that Cousins will still be available mid-3rd round but this is a “dream” draft….tremendous leader, very smart, was most impressive QB at combine…3-time captain…he could be the QB of the future once he learns the NFL game.

3rd Round – Mike Martin – NT – Michigan:  another move the Cowboys won’t make since they insist that Jay Ratliff will remain at NT, and at 6-1, Martin is strictly an inside player, but I love this player and I love the idea of moving Ratliff out to DE…in fact, I like moving Ratliff and Sean Lissemore outside and using Martin and Josh Brent at NT…great position flexibility for both Ratliff and Lissemore.  Martin is another player with a confident, outgoing personality, one who will be highly successful after his football career is over too.

4th Round – Keith Tandy – CB – West Virginia:  great value with this 2-time 1st team All Big East CB who at 5-10, 202 pounds might also project as a starting free safety….10 interceptions the past two years with terrific ball skills…smart, hard working, vocal, and confident…WVU Defensive Coordinator Jeff Casteel describes Tandy as “like having another coach on the field…the best leader on our defense.”

4th Round – Ryan Broyles – WR – Oklahoma:  the only reason the nation’s leading all-time receiver would still be available in the 4th round is because of the torn ACL he suffered in early November…rehab is coming along well and should be ready by the start of training camp…depth at WR in the draft is a primary reason that I am not in favor of spending big money on FA WR Laurent Robinson…Broyles will immediately contribute on special teams as a punt returner…very mature, tough, smart, great attitude.

5th Round – Quentin Saulsberry – G – Mississippi State:  only reason he’s available in 5th round is because at 6-2 ½, he’s considered too short to merit a higher draft pick…he seemed to handle LSU’s 1st round behemoth Michael Brockers well in a head to head matchup…high motor…50 career starts…305 pounds…31 starts at guard, 12 starts at tackle, 7 starts at center….another very mature, intelligent leader.

6th Round – Ron Brooks – CB – LSU: wasn’t a full-time starter only because LSU had Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu last year, and Patrick Peterson the year before….playmaker when he did get opportunities…Irving MacArthur-ex who will be an immediate top notch gunner on punt coverage…ran a 4.37 at the combine with a 38 inch vertical.

7th Round – Brian Peters – FS – Northwestern:  my sleeper free safety pick…6-3, 220 pounds…ran a 4.6 forty at his pro day with a very quick 6.69 cone drill….captain, 4-time academic All-Big Ten, vocal leader and most importantly a playmaker…5 picks his senior year, 1st team All-Big Ten…3 picks his junior year, 2nd team All-Big Ten…301 career tackles, Peters passes the toughness test too, playing with a broken hand in the Nebraska game.

So, there you have it!  Now you know who the Cowboys won’t sign or draft!