There is really one player on that list that is expected to be a significant, difference-making contributor in 2013 – cornerback Brandon Carr.
Really, if you look at that crop of guys overall, it would be viewed as a major disappointment. Brodney Pool failed the training camp conditioning test and was cut before even playing a down with the team, and Lawrence Vickers and Dan Connor are now gone after underwhelming 2012 seasons. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings underperformed, and Livings is now out with a knee injury. But if you look at it from a team perspective, I think it is too early to label that spree a disappointment. Overall yes, but looking at it realistically, the only guy that was/is expected to make a long term impact is Carr.
That is why I believe that it’s too early to tell.
Carr had a pretty good first season in Dallas by most cornerback standards, but Cowboy observers would tell you that he failed to live up to the $50 million price tag. As far as that goes, I think you need to give a guy of his caliber another season before truly judging his impact. Monte Kiffin‘s defense relies on in your face, physical play at cornerback, a style that Carr should thrive in. He played last season in a new environment and in a scheme that really left a lot of players disorganized. Kiffin’s system is simplified from what Rob Ryan ran and is more basic. With a full offseason in Dallas under his belt and one to get acclimated to a new system, Carr needs to be given one more full season before we judge if he was worth the money.
Then, we can look at Kyle Orton. The Cowboys gave him $10.5 million over three seasons to be a safety valve if Tony Romo were to get injured. Last year, though, Romo played all 16 regular season games, so there was no sample size on which to judge the signing of Orton. Not to mention, how many quarterbacks on the market can say that they have previously started for two different teams? In three seasons as a starter for the Chicago Bears in 2008 and then the Denver Broncos in 2009 and 2010, Orton threw for a combined 59 touchdowns and 33 interceptions with an average quarterback rating of 84.6 — not world beater numbers but not too bad for a guy who is now your backup quarterback.
Did the Cowboys get the overall payoff for their seven 2012 signings that they would have wanted last season? No. But before we judge it to say whether it was a bust of a free agent period, let’s give that biggest signing of that offseason in particular another year to prove himself.