This Offseason a Huge Success

The Cowboys filled two huge needs this week when they signed free-agent tight end Dan Campbell and free-agent linebacker Al Singleton to contracts. Campbell gives them a run-blocking tight end to help make Bill Parcells' ball-control offense go.

Singleton will immediately step in to replace the departed Kevin Hardy (Cincinnati) at strongside linebacker.

For Campbell, signing with the Cowboys was an opportunity to come home.

He grew up in Glenn Rose, about an hour south of the Metroplex, and played in college at Texas A&M before spending the last four years with the New York Giants.

The 6-5, 263-pound Campbell got a $1.47 million signing bonus and will have a first-year cap value of $1.024 million.

"They worked with us," Campbell said. "They got what they wanted and we got what we wanted. It ended up being good."

What Campbell wanted was a chance to live out a dream by playing for the team he grew up rooting for as a child and doing it in front of family and friends.

He said he enjoyed his time with Giants, but he and his wife simply wanted to come home.

"We wanted to be back in Texas," Campbell said. "I grew up a Cowboys fan and dreamed about being Roger Staubach. This is something special. My family is really excited. My next chore is figuring out tickets."

Though he will battle incumbent Tony McGee for the starting job in training camp, Campbell fits the style Parcells likes because of his size and talents as run blocker. He is also a solid pass catcher.

It's also notable that he managed to remain a big part of the Giants offense last season, despite the emergence of rookie sensation Jeremy Shockey. He started all 16 games and caught 22 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown in 2002. He has 29 starts in the last 32 games.

"He is just going to come in and be an important part of the offense," Cowboys vice-president Stephen Jones said. "He is a big physical guy. We think a lot of his blocking and he is a capable receiver."

Campbell has the added advantage of being familiar with assistant head coach Sean Payton, who is helping offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon devise the Cowboys attack for 2003. Payton came to the Cowboys from the Giants following the season and helped in the recruitment of Campbell.

"Sean was huge," Campbell said. "He felt I could help them. He knows what kind of guy I am and I know what kind of guy he is. He never gave up on me when we were in New York."

Singleton, who visited Dallas for two days, chose the Cowboys after two days of contemplation.

He got $8 million over four years, including a signing bonus of about $2 million.

All that matters to the Cowboys is that he finally did decide on them over interest from the Lions and the Buccaneers.

Hardy spurned the Cowboys when he signed a four-year $14 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. Hardy will get roughly $5 million in guaranteed money in 2003 compared to Singleton.

The 6-2, 228-pound Singleton is also a good fit because he already knows the Cowboys defense, considering that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer borrowed the scheme from the Buccaneers two years ago.

"Al is an athletic linebacker with very good speed," said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. "He also brings unique intangibles to the table with a first-hand understanding of our defensive scheme and how it can be executed at a championship level. Al is a productive player in the prime of his career. He knows how to win and how to produce in this scheme."

Singleton was originally drafted in the fourth round (128th overall) of the 1997 NFL draft. He moved into the starting lineup at strongside linebacker for the Buccaneers last season and finished fifth on the team with a career-high 89 tackles for the NFL's top ranked defense. He started 14 of 16 regular season games and two of three playoff games as Tampa Bay claimed the Super Bowl title.

The Cowboys like what they have done in free agency, getting mid-level guys at reasonable prices to fill needs. All totaled the Cowboys have added Singleton, Campbell, punter Toby Gowin, fullback Richie Anderson, tackle Ryan Young and receiver Terry Glenn.

The moves have the Cowboys almost set so they can go into the draft and concentrate just on getting the best player rather than trying to fill a need.

Though they remain interested in bringing in a veteran quarterback, cornerback is the last remaining free-agent priority.

The Cowboys brought in Green Bay nickel back Tod McBride for a visit but were unimpressed with his attitude. They will continue to weigh their options at the position but want to remain prudent.

The Cowboys refuse to overpay for a cornerback.

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