Any time there's a coaching change, whether it's a head coach or at one of the coordinator positions, it's not uncommon to see an influx of talent from the coaches' old teams to their new employers. It doesn't necessarily mean those players are better than the players already on the new team's roster, but there definitely is some value in having players who know a system, the coaches and the terminology.
With the recent addition of former Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and former Browns linebackers coach Matt Eberflus, who have been hired to fill the same roles in Dallas, it's safe to assume that some of the Browns' defensive free agents might end up playing in Dallas (assuming, of course, that the NFL owners and players reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that allows the league to conduct all normal business, including free agency). Along those lines, Ranchreport.com has learned that at least four free agents, including three linebackers, from the Cleveland defense have been discussed by the Dallas front office.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson: A high risk, high reward player, Jackson missed the entire 2010 season after having surgery to repair a torn (right) pectoral muscle. The injury was the second he suffered; Jackson's 2009 season was cut short after six games for surgery to repair his left pectoral muscle. Because of the injuries, his days in Cleveland might well be numbered, and he likely can be had for a low salary. If he can stay healthy, Jackson can be a very productive player. In his first three seasons out of Maryland, Jackson averaged 116 tackles per season, and is the kind of aggressive, punishing player who thrives in the middle of the 3-4 Ryan and Eberflus coach.
Linebacker Chris Gocong: Another productive inside linebacker, Gocong is bigger than Jackson, at 6-2 and 263 pounds. After three years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Gocong moved to Cleveland and took over one of the inside linebacker spots, starting all 16 games. His 75 tackles were the eighth-highest total on the Cleveland roster, and second among linebackers. The Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo product is both productive and durable, having missed just one game in his four-year career. He is not quite as fast as Jackson, but is a very solid contributor in the middle of the 3-4 defense. If the Cowboys choose to replace veteran Keith Brooking, either with a 2010 rookie Sean Lee or a new addition to the team, don't be surprised to see Jackson or Gocong, or possibly even both, in Dallas.
Linebacker Matt Roth: The third Cleveland linebacker to appear on the team's list of pending free agents, Roth is a big (6-foot-4, 275 pounds) outside linebacker who relies more on his brawn and power than pure speed. The former Iowa star played five years in Miami before joining the Browns, and 2010 was the first season in which he started all 16 games. His 86 tackles were the second-highest total on the team, and the most among linebackers, and his 3.5 quarterback sacks tied him for second on the team.
Safety Abram Elam: The former Cowboy — he played his rookie season in Dallas in 2006 before spending two years with the New York Jets and two more with the Browns — has been exceptionally productive for Cleveland, where he has played all 32 games over the last two seasons, starting 31. His 79 tackles were the third-highest total on the team, and marked a slight downturn from career-high 91 he posted in 2009. With the Cowboys' uncertainty at the safety spots and Elam's strong performance under Ryan in Cleveland, Elam might well find himself sitting at or near the top of the Cowboys' offseason wish list.
Cowboys target four free agents
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