SAN ANTONIO -- The Dallas Cowboys made a play for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but it was their NFC East rivals who instead pulled off the shocker of free agency. Asomugha agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract, $25 million guaranteed, with the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday.
At the same time the Cowboys were praising their starting cornerbacks, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, they were working on a deal for Asomugha. It likely would have meant the end of Newman's career in Dallas, as he is scheduled to make an $8 million base salary and count $10 million against the cap.
During practice, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones handed his cellphone to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached Asomugha in Oakland, and Jones later exchanged a fist bump with son Stephen Jones. It is obvious the Cowboys thought they had a shot at the biggest free agent prize.
"That all of a sudden fit, and you've got to be ready for that," Jerry Jones told 105.3 The Fan after learning that Asomugha had spurned the Cowboys. "...We had an opportunity. We acted on it, and believe me, we firmly acted on it until my eyes watered."
The Cowboys filled a hole Friday with one of their own free agents, defensive end Marcus Spears, who they seemed prepared to play without.
Last year they thought so little of Spears that they paid him less than his backups. This off-season they didn't discourage him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
But he returns with a four-year contract worth $19.2 million, signed to help a position that lost Stephen Bowen to free agency as camp began and might lose Jason Hatcher, who was scheduled to visit Denver on Friday.
"I'm home," Spears, a first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005, said in a telephone interview. "I'm so happy, man. Jerry and Stephen Jones came through."
A source said defensive end Ty Warren, released by the Patriots on Friday, is interested in Dallas.
But the Cowboys' more pressing need now is at safety. They are using second-year players Barry Church and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah as the first-teamers right now.
The Cowboys' rookies are all signed, but not all of them are healthy enough to practice.
Inside linebacker Bruce Carter and running back DeMarco Murray begin their Cowboys careers on the non-football injury list. Carter said he is 90 percent recovered from the partially torn ACL in his left knee, and Murray is recovering from a hamstring pull suffered in a workout a few weeks ago.
Murray should be ready to practice within a week, coach Jason Garrett said.
RB Tashard Choice is expected to miss two to four weeks with a calf strain.
The Cowboys signed DT Lawon Scott of Mississippi, CB Alex Ibiloye of TCU and RB Frank Warren of Grambling State.
LB Keith Brooking injured his hamstring on an interception return. Further exams will determine the severity of the injury.
Staff writers Clarence E. Hill Jr. and Carlos Mendez contributed to this report.