Q: Do you think Marion Barber will be with the Cowboys in 2010?
Cynthia Evans via Twitter
A: Yes, we fully expect Barber to be in Dallas this season. While Barber was arguably the least effective running back on the roster this past season, there is really nowhere for him to go. His contract makes him impossible to release, and there really would be no reason to cut a player that makes up one of the best running back groups in the NFL.
Three quality backs is certainly a luxury, but by getting rid of Barber, or any of the running backs for that matter, the Cowboys would leave themselves dangerously thin at the position. Running backs frequently get injured (particularly Felix Jones). If Dallas had only Choice and Jones on the roster and one of them got hurt, all of a sudden there is a huge problem in the backfield.
In having this three-headed ball-carrying monster, the Cowboys not only provide each back with adequate rest during games, but they also protect themselves from this injury scenario.
Q: In your study of Romo’s audibles, you claimed that Tony checked out of 79 plays on the season. How do you know when Romo is calling an audible, and how do you know it is not a dummy call?
Timothy Grant, Grand Rapids, MI
A: The majority of Romo’s audibles (75, to be exact), were “Kill” calls. During these checks, Romo is simply alerting the team to disregard the first play called in the huddle and run the second play (Garrett often calls two plays). There is really no reason for Romo to yell out a fake “Kill” audible because the defense does not know either play that was called. In having the exact same verbiage, just one word, there is nothing for the defense to pick up on.
If Romo was frequently calling the play at the line of scrimmage, such as the way Peyton Manning does, there would be a use for dummy checks. Teams might pick up on the meaning of a certain term, thus making it useful to yell that term during a dummy audible and run a play the defense is not expecting.
There is, of course, a possibility that Romo’s four non-“Kill” checks were dummy calls, but with such a small number (four), it is just very unlikely. Further, such a small sample size would do little to skew our results.
Q: Do you see Dallas making a big splash in free agency this offseason, particularly with the uncapped season?
Robert Stanford, El Paso, Texas
A: The Cowboys won’t spend much money in free agency because they can’t spend much money in free agency. The league’s new Final Eight plan limits the ability of teams advancing to the divisional playoffs to sign free agents. According to the league’s official explanation:
“For the four clubs that lost in the Divisional Playoffs, in addition to having the ability to sign free agents based on the number of their own free agents signing with other clubs, they may also sign players based on specific financial parameters. Those four only will be permitted to sign one unrestricted free agent for $5.5 million (estimated) or more in year one of the contract, plus the number of their UFAs who sign with another team. They also can sign any unrestricted free agents for less than $3.7 (estimated) million in year one of the contract with limitations on the per year increases.”
Thus, Dallas is very limited in the impact they can make in free agency. They will have to rely on their 2010 draft picks and their injured draft selections from last year to improve the team’s roster.