BLOG: 2007 Cowboys Draft/Free Agency

TheRanchReport.com editor Roy Philpott introduces a new feature to Cowboys' fans ... an updated blog containing the latest news, opinions and analysis on free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft. Today's update takes a closer look at new coach Wade Phillips and also the Cowboys unrestricted free agents on the offensive line.

2007 Cowboys Free Agency/Draft Blog
FEBRUARY 11, 2007 - First off, let me welcome you to our latest feature here at TheRanchReport.com- our 2007 NFL draft/free agency blog. I've received literally hundreds of e-mails about starting something like this for the last year or so, and now seemed like the ideal to finally get things moving. My hope is that not only will this be a place to share opinions on what happens at Valley Ranch, but also to paint a clear picture of what the Cowboys should be doing this off-season to get back to the playoffs and hopefully Super Bowl XLII. Now, on with the show!

Phillips Hire Prompts New Outlook- With the hiring of Wade Phillips just four days ago, the Dallas Cowboys organization is clearly changing. Sure, we expect several members of the old coaching staff to remain on board, but with a new head coach in place in Phillips, the Cowboys could go a number of different directions when it comes to free agency and the upcoming draft.

Some we may be ready for, others we may not.

In the coming weeks, we'll be taking a closer look some of the free agent targets that will be looked by the Cowboys, but with a new coaching staff in place- literally anything is possible right now. Remember, Phillips is a defensive-minded coach that has a proven track record of success in the 3-4 scheme, so he could see something with the Cowboys' current personnel that went unnoticed by former coach Bill Parcells.

By no means am I implying that Phillips is a miracle worker, but statistics do support the idea that Phillips' first year with a new team creates instant improvement, especially on defense.

Consider: Phillips took over as the head coach in Buffalo in 1997, after a 6-10 season, and led the Bills to the playoffs and a 10-6 record and the playoffs in 1998. In addition, his 1999 team led the NFL in total defense, went 11-5 and earned another trip to the postseason.

As a defensive coordinator with the Bills, Buffalo's defense allowed a league-low 22 touchdown passes and 3.4 yards per carry, while ranking second in sacks (48), yards per play (4.3) and opponent completion percentage (.520) in 1996.

In his first year with the Chargers, Phillips' defense allowed only 81.7 rushing yards per game, a number that ranked third in the league.

The statistics go on and on so I won't bore you with every single one- but go read his official bio and you'll see.

And while I'll be the first to admit that the hiring of Wade Phillips was anything but "sexy," the fact is with the talent he will inherit in Dallas, the stage is set for considerable improvement in 2007- especially on the defensive side of the ball.

And folks, I don't need to remind you the difference between winning and losing in the NFL is miniscule- especially when it comes to the Cowboys. A slight improvement with a team that already has talent can lead to great things.

No Salary Cap Hell - With over $17 million in cap room this off-season (and that number will go up), expect the Cowboys to be aggressive once again when it comes to acquiring veteran talent.

The good news is there should be plenty of talent to choose from, especially on the offensive line where 51 unrestricted free agents are set to test the open market.

But before the Cowboys take, "a look around," they've got some housekeeping issues of their own- like figuring out what to do with their own unrestricted free agents. Here's a look at the Cowboys' unrestricted free agents on the offensive line:

C Andre Gurode - The Cowboys want to keep Gurode after a strong showing in 2006 and have been working to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent on March 2. Gurode's improved play last season was something the organization has been waiting on for literally years. The talent has always been there, but the consistency hasn't- until last season. Keep in mind Gurode started all 16 games in 2006 and was eventually named to the Pro Bowl.

T Marc Colombo - Colombo started 14 games at right tackle and ended up being one of the pleasant surprises of 2007. Provided he's healthy, this former first round pick has proven he can be a consistent performer at the NFL level. Like Gurode, the Cowboys will work to keep Colombo.

C Al Johnson - Once considered a starter, Johnson's productivity fell off after the emergence of Gurode last season. Sure, Johnson could come back, but it would have to be at the right price and he be better served by moving on. Remember, Johnson started 31 consecutive games at center entering the 2006 season but only saw spot duty once Gurode stepped up his play.

Keep in mind the Cowboys also have questions surrounding other players on the o-line, especially right guard Marco Rivera. Rivera was injured in the Wildcard loss at Seattle and had an MRI done on his back after it locked up on him on the plane ride home.

Stay tuned for more on Rivera in the coming weeks.

To post comments about Roy's blog, or ask a question about the upcoming draft and free agency, please click here.

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