Dallas Cowboys Most Underrated and Overrated Offseason Additions
Outside of the signing of free-agent defensive tackle Henry Melton, the Dallas Cowboys had a relatively quiet offseason. They didn’t spend a huge amount of money in free agency—almost all of it tied up in Melton—and the team bypassed the high-profile Johnny Manziel for an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft.
While the Cowboys’ 2014 draft in general might have been a bit overrated, they’ve made a few underrated moves as well. Let’s take a look at five underrated and overrated offseason additions for the Cowboys.
Underrated: DT Henry Melton
Melton has fans in Dallas excited, but the move was even better than most understand. Part of the lack of hype is probably due to Melton not yet suiting up for Dallas, but he’s still on track for training camp, according to ESPN Dallas.
Melton is seen as a replacement for lost free-agent defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, but he’s a faster, younger and overall better player. Melton had 13 total sacks in the two seasons prior to 2013, when he was lost for the year with a knee injury—his second and third seasons in the NFL.
Best of all, the Melton deal is extremely team-friendly for Dallas. Melton could "make as little as $2.25 million this season," according to Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, and the Cowboys could cut him with no strings attached.
The Cowboys essentially got a Pro-Bowl-caliber player on a one-year “prove it” deal, with the option to retain him long term. Some seem to be underestimating how well the Cowboys did to leave their options open here.
Overrated: DE Demarcus Lawrence
I really like Cowboys' second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence, and I think he’s going to be one heck of a professional. All of the signs of success are there—long arms, college production, age—and Bryan Broaddus labeled him as the defensive standout during OTAs on DallasCowboys.com’s “Talkin’ Cowboys.”
There are two reasons the addition isn’t quite as awesome as it first appears, at least for 2014. The first is the cost. The Cowboys essentially gave up their second- and third-round picks to nab Lawrence. Trading up in the early rounds has historically been a bad investment, and as much as there is to like about Lawrence, you have to at least consider that he cost two picks when discussing his value.
The bigger reason that Lawrence is being overrated is that many are counting on him for big production this year, which is going to be difficult. Lawrence has all kinds of great characteristics for the long term, but defensive end isn’t like running back where rookies can just step in and produce at a high level. For that reason, Lawrence’s 2014 impact alone might fall short of what people are anticipating.
Underrated: RB Ryan Williams
DeMarco Murray is the man at running back in Dallas, but he’s going to be a free agent after this year. The Cowboys are excited about Lance Dunbar; running backs coach Gary Brown told Fox Sports Southwest, per Steve Hunt, that he’s a “complete weapon.” Still, he’s a 5’8” back who weighs 188 pounds, so there are limitations. And then of course, there’s Joseph Randle.
Ryan Williams offers the Cowboys a bit of insurance against an injury to Murray as a player who can excel on first and second down. He’s been injured during his time in the pros, but this is a player who ran for 1,665 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first season at Virginia Tech.
Williams' 4.61 in the 40-yard dash is concerning, but he also jumped 40 inches vertically and recorded a 10’3” broad jump, according to NFL.com. That’s serious explosiveness, which suggests that Williams’ 40-yard dash time isn’t representative of what he can do out of the backfield.
And let’s not forget that if Williams doesn’t work out, there’s no real cost to Dallas. This was a low-risk/high-reward signing.
Overrated: WR Devin Street
Let’s take a second to look at Devin Street’s closest comps in terms of his measurables; using the MockDraftable.com database, here they are:
Ryan Hoag, Jabar Gaffney, Jason McAddley, Fred Gibson, Rashaun Woods, Muneer Moore, Darvin Adams, Robert Ferguson, Terry Charles and Emmett Johnson
If Street’s ceiling as an NFL player is Jabar Gaffney—the best player on that list—that’s not great. It’s nice that Street is tall at 6’3”, but he’s also light at 198 pounds. That’s a problem. To make matters worse, Street doesn’t have outstanding speed (4.55).
That number is fine, but you’d typically like either size or speed in a receiver. If you aren’t 210-plus pounds, you should be under 4.50, and if you aren’t all that fast, you better weigh a lot. Plus, Street wasn’t very productive at Pitt, totaling 854 yards in his final season and not once going for 1,000 yards.
You could argue that we’d be asking too much of a fifth-round round pick, but Nebraska’s Quincy Enunwa was still on the board when Dallas selected Street. Enunwa is 6’2”, 225 pounds with 4.45 speed and was responsible for a much higher share of his team’s receiving totals than Street.
Underrated: DE Anthony Spencer
Is defensive end Anthony Spencer in the prime of his career? Not at all, but here’s the key: When Dallas re-signed him, all of his risk was priced into his contract. Spencer received a one-year, $2 million deal. That’s not a lot of money for a player who had 11 sacks in his last full NFL season.
The Cowboys did the right thing in addressing the future of the defensive-end position in the draft, so they already planned for Spencer not returning to form. If the Cowboys had handed Spencer $5 million, this would be a horrible deal, but considering the cost, you have to think that the ‘Boys more than compensated for the fact that Spencer comes with big risk.
Plus, even though Spencer is an injury risk, he still acts as a small hedge against Lawrence disappointing in his rookie season.