Jason Garrett likes players who have had to work for what they have in the NFL.
Don’t misunderstand – he has no problem taking premier players.
But as the Cowboys coach talked last week about some of the free agents who have joined the team, it came up that offensive guard Nate Livings – who signed a five-year deal worth $19 million to join the Cowboys – was undrafted out of college.
“We don’t consciously go get guys who are free agents, but sometimes you like the path those guys have taken because they’ve earned it,” Garrett said at the NFL owners meetings last week.
Livings came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent. So did Miles Austin and Tony Romo, the two most notable examples of undrafted free agents on the Cowboys (and perhaps the NFL).
But they aren’t the only ones. Center Phil Costa, tackle Jeremy Parnell and safeties Barry Church and Danny McCray were undrafted free agents two years ago.
Last year, four undrafted rookies made the team –guard Kevin Kowalski, linebacker Alex Albright, kicker Dan Bailey and running back Phillip Tanner made the team.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, re-signed by the Cowboys, was an undrafted out of Virginia in 2009.
“It’s unfair to say you want a team made up like that because there are a lot first-round picks who have those same qualities and traits,” Garrett said. “One thing I know about the NFL, in my years of playing and coaching, is there is going to be adversity. If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you’re going to be able to withstand that inevitable adversity that happens.”
The Cowboys’ free-agent signings this spring included three low-round picks.
Cornerback Brandon Carr, the top-dollar signee, was a fifth-round pick.
Guard Mackenzie Bernadeau was a seventh-round pick.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers was a sixth-rounder.
“Guys who come from those backgrounds, who have earned their way, have typically faced adversity,” Garrett said. “They have been rejected. They weren’t the No. 1 recruit, so they went to this school instead of that school that maybe they wanted to go to, or they weren’t the starter right away, so they worked their way up the depth chart. ... You like guys who have a little bit of history dealing with adversity, and hopefully that will reflect throughout your team.”
-- Carlos Mendez