I knew this topic was going to be brought up soon and I get up this morning and there it was. A message from a friend of mine saying the Dallas Cowboys should sign Shawne Merriman. My reply, “no, no, no, God no!” Why the heck do the Cowboys need Merriman? This is a player who has 5 sacks in the past five years, heck he’s only played in 23 games in the last five seasons!
It never fails though, as soon as someone with name value gets released it seems the Cowboys are the first team name to pop up. Really though, this will not happen. It should not happen. Are you ready for the answer why?
The Dallas Cowboys have the best set of linebackers in the NFL.
No, I’m not joking Mr. San Francisco 49ers or Pittsburgh Steelers fan. No team in the league has the talent and depth at linebacker like the Cowboys do so why would they need to go out and sign a washed up Merriman?
Look at the Cowboys linebacker situation and tell me where he would fit. DeMarcus Ware is arguably the best pass rusher in the game at outside linebacker and they have one of the best, if not the best, run stopping outside linebacker in Anthony Spencer on the other side. Again, I know we all want more sacks from Spencer but his hits, pressures and sacks rank near the top in the NFL. Not to mention that he led the team in forced fumbles so the guy is better than we think.
At middle linebacker, the Cowboys have the budding superstar in Sean Lee. He is a Pro Bowl linebacker who has outstanding intelligence, is a tackling machine and is great in coverage. Next to him in the middle will most likely be Bruce Carter, a second year player who was a first round prospect who tore up his knee in his last year of college. The Cowboys drafted him in the second round last year in hope of getting him ready to go this season and all reports are that he is. Carter is super athletic and all he needs is some experience.
The Cowboys have liked what they have seen so far from Carter, “He looks like a real player now,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “The kid loves to work, and he’s doing a great job. He’s jumping off the tape right now. This work in progress is really on the come, fellas. He’s been one of our guys who have really looked good in this camp…he’s the guy we thought he was when we drafted him.” I am a big believer in Carter and think he will be a star for the Cowboys.
If Carter falters, the Cowboys covered themselves by signing free agent middle linebacker Dan Conner to add a veteran presence in the middle. Conner is a very active and instinctive player who tends to get injured but if the Cowboys can limit his snaps he can be very valuable. Then there’s outside linebacker Victor Butler, who was among the league leaders in sacks per snap last year. He is a pass rushing specialist who the Cowboys really like and intend to get more playing time this season. Butler has looked very good in the Cowboys first two preseason games.
They also drafted an outside linebacker Kyle Wilber who was impressing the team with his pass rush ability before a thumb injury has sidelined him until the beginning of the season. Anyone who says “I just want to destroy the quarterback” is fine with me.
The Cowboys also have two young linebackers they really like in Orie Lemon and Alex Albright. Albright is seen as a mini-me version of Sean Lee. He’s been all over the field in their first two preseason games and made it impossible for the Cowboys staff not to notice him. Albright is also an outstanding special teams contributor. Lemon is another player who has shown toughness and smarts in training camp, as well as being a solid player on special teams.
Finally there is Adrian Hamilton, an undrafted outside linebacker who the Cowboys really like as a situational pass rusher. Hamilton has shown a good array of pass rushing moves and the athleticism to make plays. It seems likely that Hamilton makes this team and his role looks likely to grow as the year goes on.
By my count that is 10 linebackers the Cowboys will keep. I don’t see any spot for Merriman in this group. The Cowboys should not give up on a young player for a glorified “name.” As I’ve been saying the past few weeks, the days of Dallas bringing in an aging veteran because of his past performances are over. This team is moving in a younger, more athletic and competitive direction.
Other teams may have a better starting group of linebackers, which I would disagree with as well, but no team has the skill and depth the Cowboys do.
The Dallas Cowboys should turn the “lights out” on any possibility of signing Shawne Merriman.