This acquisition should come as no surprise to Cowboys fans and close followers of the NFL. In recent years, the Cowboys have attempted to maximize draft value by taking chances on risky players. The concept is simple. Find flawed players with early round talent levels and draft them in later rounds when they fall. By taking a chance on these players they also establish the team's commitment to the player and hope to garner an extra measure of loyalty and effort in return. It's a high risk, high reward proposition. I've dedicated a large number of words to the concept here. Stop by if you get the chance.
This summer has brought in three such players through free agency. Rolando McClain is the latest. It's well documented that McClain retired before playing a down for the Ravens. Before then he played 3 seasons for the Raiders after being drafted with the 8th overall pick in 2010. While Rolando has claimed that his reasons for retirement were personal, the reasons for why he was cut from the Raiders are much more concrete. Heading into the 2012 season, McClain had been in trouble with the law on a few occasions. As the season progressed he began to lose snaps. Finally, everything boiled over in November and he departed the team. His history with the law, his penchant for giving up the big play, and his proclaimed desire to quit the Raiders all led to this first round linebacker passing through waivers and remaining unclaimed until the following off-season when the Ravens came calling.
Henry Melton was a terrific defensive tackle for Chicago. Drafted in 2009, he recorded 89 tackles, 15.5 sacks and made one Pro Bowl appearance during his stint with the Bears. In September of last year, he suffered an ACL injury and was placed on the IR for the rest of the season. The Cowboys weren't scared off by the injury and signed Melton in March of this year.
Brandon Weedon was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. The Browns cut him in March of 2014 because of.... well....umm... I think it had something to do with this...
All three players represent the same idea. Value. Each is a discount priced lottery ticket. Melton is probably the surest bet, with only an injury hampering his production. Adrian Peterson has very recently taught us that recovering from an ACL injury is very, very possible. Weedon has 20 starts as an NFL quarterback on his resume (which is more rare than most people realize). Additionally, he did possess enough talent to be selected in the first round of the draft. These two factors could make him an excellent value as a backup quarterback. (Then again... this)
McClain is the wild card. Excellent physical traits. NFL experience. Loads of potential. He also has character concerns, enough skill flaws that he was losing his place, and perhaps most frightening of all... he has some “quit” in him. He was cut by the Raiders, but don't be fooled... he quit. Then he retired rather than try again with the Ravens. He's only 24, he could still be great. But unless he finds the internal drive to win and fight, it could be a short season.
One last thing worth noting. The players are all high risk, high reward... but the contracts are not. The contracts are No risk, ALL reward. Weedon will be playing with a 2 year deal paying him 570k and 660k in the respective years. McClain's contract is a non-guaranteed 1 year deal worth 700k with another 400k in incentives. Finally Melton's deal. It's a thing of beauty. He'll make 2.25 for certain. He can raise that number to 5 million with performance and health. If he reclaims Pro Bowl form, the Cowboys can exercise a 3 year team option with a palatable 7.5m base salary per season.
All told, The Cowboys will pay 3.5m (potentially up to around 7m if Melton and McClain excel) for these three players. But might have just added two 1st round, Pro Bowl defensive players to their front seven, and a confident back-up for Romo (Especially relevant should Kyle Orton follow through on his own retirement) . There are obviously no guarantees of success but this strategy is certainly designed to pay strong dividends for a team who could desperately use help on defense and doesn't have a lot of money to spend.