The Cowboys' process of free-agent visits began on Thursday ... unless you count a Wednesday night dinner in DFW ...
Cedric Thornton probably likes steaks. And the Cowboys like the idea of moving him inside in their 4-3 defense to serve as a play-making 1-Tech who would replace Nick Hayden.,
Thornton, 6-4, 309, undrafted out of Southern Arkansas in 2011, came into his own in 2013 in Chip Kelly's first season. Now playing defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, Thornton blossomed in his third year with 52 tackles, a sack, and three fumbles recoveries, including one for a touchdown. He also managed to earn a safety. Along with the emergence of Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, and Bennie Logan in '14, the Eagles defensive line looked like a stout antidote to the Cowboys offensive line. If not for Mark Sanchez reverting to his true form in the last month of that season, the Eagles defensive line, featuring Thornton, would have been a formidable contender in the NFC playoffs.
Last season, Thornton started and played in 13 games, the lowest total since his rookie season in '11 when he bounced on and off the practice squad to finally make the active roster in December. He only made 32 tackles and had just one sack. ... but Dallas thinks he's an interior playmaker and gets a four-year, $18-mil deal.
Also in town is another Eagles defender, cornerback Nolan Carroll.
Carroll has the size you want in a cornerback standing at 6-1, and weighing in at 202 pounds. However, according to Pro Football Focus, he was the 54th best cornerback in the NFL last season of the 114 that played. The Cowboys' own Brandon Carr placed 55th. If Carroll comes to Dallas, maybe there will be 1/54 less complaints about the secondary play. His season was cut short last year with a broken ankle that forced him onto the injured reserve list in November.
The six-year pro would be on his third team since being taken in the fifth round by the Dolphins in 2010. After spending four seasons in Miami, Carroll signed with Philadelphia. While in the NFC East, Carroll played 27 out of a possible 32 games and started in 12 of those contests. In '14, when the Eagles went 10-6, Carroll started but one game. In '15, when the Eagles finished 7-9 and fired Kelly, he started 11. With the Maryland alumnus, maybe less is more.
And less is given with Carroll. Only in '13 and '14 did he play all 16 games. Other than that, he has missed as few as one game per season (2011) to as many as five (2015). His best year was in 2013, his last with the Dolphins, when he started 12 of 16 games, picked off three passes, defended 12, recorded 47 tackles, and sacked the quarterback twice. That's why the Eagles shelled out a two-year, $5-million deal to Carroll. ... and pending what Dallas might want to pay, this might mean Carroll is in as a roster replacement for free-agent Cowboy Mo Claiborne.