The Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 off-season officially has a turn-of-the-century feel. If you are too young, too old or have successfully removed those Cowboys memories from your sports brain, the turn of the century was not pleasant for your local professional football team.
The turn of this century is when Jerry Jones was desperately adding names to hold on to a team that contended for Super Bowls and was built around a quarterback with a bad back.
The Cowboys’ courting the likes of Henry Melton, Jared Allen and actually signing Brandon Weeden are moves to hold on to a team that contends for playoff spots around a QB with a bad back.
The visits by Allen and Melton and, for some reason known only to God, the signing of this generation’s Tony Banks — Weeden — leave every Cowboys fan secure with a harsh reality: the success of this franchise rests almost completely on Tony Romo’s ability to recover from his back surgery.
At the turn of the century, the Cowboys signed free-agent defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, gave up two first-round picks to acquire receiver Joey Galloway and added quarterback Tony Banks to temporarily fill in for Troy Aikman.
The Cowboys’ signing of Weeden on Monday brings to mind one of the greatest lines Mr. Randy Galloway ever penned. After the Cowboys signed Banks, Galloway wrote: “Losers sign loser.”
The only difference was that the Cowboys signed Banks in 2001 to be a temporary replacement for Aikman and then cut him in the preseason because they had the best quarterback in the history of the franchise, the Great One — Quincy Carter.
And those teams still had Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson and Greg Ellis.
This team has Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, a solid offensive line and a defense overburdened with doubt and question marks.
Like adding Glover in ’02, adding Melton is the best idea.
He will turn 28 in October and is coming off knee surgery performed in September to repair a torn ACL. He wants a one-year deal to prove to the league that he can play and that he deserves one last big contract.
Melton is at least equal to Jason Hatcher, who signed a $27.5 million contract that the Redskins will regret giving him.
Glover was 28 when he came to the Cowboys in 2002 and had no one around him. Melton would be entering the same situation.
The reason the Cowboys cut 31-year-old DeMarcus Ware is that rising age plus rising pay equals declining production. Cutting Ware and letting Hatcher walk were the right calls.
Allen has stated that he will only take the market value, which is going to be a big number, or he will retire. If you are going to sign Allen, why cut Ware?
Adding Allen as an end rusher may work for the first five or six weeks before his 32-year-old body begins to break down.
In fairness to Allen, he has not missed a game since 2007 and has been a double-digit sack player since 2006. There is, however, a reason the Vikings said goodbye to Allen. It is probably the same reason why the Broncos grabbed Ware over Allen.
Let someone else pay “market value” for Allen, and draft a kid.
Which brings us to the sports tragedy of signing Weeden, who, despite being in the NFL for only two seasons, is 30 years old. The only reason to bring him here is because he has played 23 NFL games, knows the NFL routine and can throw passes in OTAs and other off-season drills that Romo cannot. If the Cowboys think he can play a single NFL regular-season game, we should all move.
The only way this “makes sense” is because this is the same brain trust that was excited about Carter. To protect the guilty, a high-ranking team executive once told me in 2006 how great Q could have been.
The Cowboys already have a backup in Kyle Orton, whom they should keep one more year. He is a quality NFL backup. If the Cowboys are serious about another quarterback, find a guy in the draft or in rookie free agency and develop him. Weeden has demonstrated that he just ain’t got it.
The only difference between the Turn-of-the-Century Cowboys and these Cowboys is that today there are better pieces, from Dez to Tyron Smith to Travis Frederick to Romo. And they appear to be drafting a little bit better than they did in those years.
Yet the more moves this team makes, the more apparent it is that any potential success rests on Romo’s back.
The more moves this team makes, the more it feels like the turn of the century.