Cowboys get early litmus test against champs

The Sports Xchange
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Tight end Jason Witten said he excited about the prospects of opening the season on the road against the rival New York Giants. The Cowboys have unfinished business with the Giants after being swept by them last season en route to New York winning the NFC East title and eventually the Super Bowl. Witten said the Cowboys can have the same success as the Giants in 2012 and hope to kickoff on the season opener.

"You see that schedule knowing we're going to open up (in New York) against the defending champs ... what else do you need to motivate yourself?" Witten said. "It's time to do that. I think guys understand that. They've been around here and know to forget everything else and let's go be our best and play great football. There're going to be times when you lose, but you've got to be able to address it and get better. Hopefully we can hang our hats on that. We've got the right type of guys that can lead us to have the same kind of success that we've seen the Giants have."

--Quarterback Tony Romo and his wife Candice had a baby April 8, weighing eight pounds and eight ounces.

--Former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman started quite a stir a couple of weeks ago when he said that Tony Romo was a better quarterback than he ever was. It drew negative responses from across the football world, including Chargers coach Norv Turner and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Asked about the reaction he received, Aikman said, "More than anticipated, certainly. But am I surprised by the reaction? No, not really. I don't think the statement warranted the response that I got."

QUOTE TO NOTE
"From a quarterback's perspective, you just assume that they're always trying to get big hits on you. I mean, it's no different than we played, I want to say Washington, after I broke my ribs and a big emphasis that week was probably trying to hit me hard. I don't know if that's any different from that perspective. Now, I do agree that there's no spot in the game basically for extra incentive money-wise. I think that people are trying to win the game; they're trying to do just what they need to do within the rules. I think that Roger Goodell has done a great job of just handling all the situations and coming down on some of the people that were involved. Some of it seems very harsh, and others not so much. Just part of it." -- Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on bounties

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

--LB Bradie James is no longer a Cowboy after signing a one-year, $890,000 deal with the Houston Texans. James will likely replace Demeco Ryans in Houston after his role was diminished last season when he played only 414 plays and made only 44 tackles. James, a fourth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2005, led the team in tackles for six consecutive seasons before 2011. The move reunites James with Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, who was the Cowboys' head coach from 2007-2010.

--CB Terence Newman, cut by the Cowboys in March, has signed with the Bengals. Terms were not disclosed. Newman will be reunited with former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who is the coordinator with the Bengals.

--The Cowboys shot down a media report that had them talking internally about trading running back Felix Jones if they signed a running back in the draft. A Cowboys source responded with, "Hell No! That's not accurate."

--The Cowboys didn't bring in defensive lineman Dontari Poe or Michael Brockers for pre-draft visits. But nothing should be read into that. They are still viable options for the 14th pick. The Cowboys say they know everything they need to know about each player.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Guard: The Cowboys need to get bigger, stronger and better up front. Because of quarterback Tony Romo's slight stature, protecting up the middle and keeping pressure out of his face is just as important as protecting the blind side. The Cowboys have some nice options at guard on the roster but none are considered premier anchors. They signed Nate Livings from Cincinnati, but could add more.

2. Cornerback: Even though the Cowboys signed a cornerback in free agency, they will still target the position in the draft. They need to fill depth as there are only three corners on the roster right now and they need to play for the future as starter Mike Jenkins is in the final year of his contract.

3. Linebacker: You can never have too many pass rushers as the Cowboys found out last season and with Anthony Spencer playing on a one-year deal, they need to begin looking for his replacement.

MEDICAL WATCH
No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER
LB Anthony Spencer (tendered at $8.856 million).

TRANSITION PLAYER
None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--CB Alan Ball will likely not be brought back and certainly won't be a priority. The Cowboys will be focusing on cornerbacks in the draft and free agency.

--LB Keith Brooking wants to return for another season. Will only be brought back to mentor to the young linebackers and for leadership.

--OG Derrick Dockery was solid when he played last season. But he would only be brought back for depth purposes if at all. The Cowboys will be looking for a long-term upgrade in the draft and free agency.

--SS Abram Elam wants to return and the Cowboys are considering bringing him back. Yet they are trying to upgrade the position and Elam is more of a stop-gap answer than a long-term solution.

--OG Montrae Holland was solid when he played last year but the Cowboys are looking for upgrades through the draft and free agency. Could be pursued for a return if they don't go big in free agency or high in the draft with a guard.

--P Mat McBriar is coming off knee surgery and will not be ready until possibly minicamp. The Cowboys already have a potential replacement in Chris Jones. They will take a wait and see approach in regards to bringing McBriar back to compete in camp. He is not a top priority.

--RB Sammy Morris was only a stop-gap addition at the end of last season. Will not be pursued for a return.

--CB Frank Walker was a solid role player for the Cowboys last year. But they are looking for upgrades in the secondary. He will not be brought back.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--QB Chris Greisen (not tendered as RFA) was a late season injury addition for practice purposes.

--WR Jesse Holley (not tendered as ERFA) has been solid on special teams and made plays in the regular offense when called upon. Will have to prove himself all over again in camp. But that is only way this reality star knows how to make team.

--RB Chauncey Washington (not tendered as ERFA) was signed for depth purposes last year but came in overweight. Won't be brought to camp next season

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
None.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--DE Clifton Geathers has shown promise as a prospect. Will be brought back to camp but needs to show he can be a solid contributor.

--OT Jermey Parnell is a developmental project the Cowboys are still working with. Will be signed and brought to camp but must prove he can be the team's third tackle

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--WR Kevin Ogletree: not tendered as RFA; 1 yr terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--C/G Mackenzy Bernadeau: UFA Panthers; $11M/4 yrs, $3.25M SB.

--QB Rudy Carpenter (waivers Buccaneers).

--CB Brandon Carr: UFA Chiefs; $50.1M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$25.5M guaranteed.

--LB Dan Connor: UFA Panthers; $6.5M/2 yrs.

--LB Isaiah Greenhouse: FA; terms unknown.

--OG Nate Livings: UFA Bengals; $19M/5 yrs, $6.2M guaranteed.

--QB Kyle Orton: UFA Chiefs; $10.5M/3 yrs, $5M SB (five-year deal that will void to three).

--FS Brodney Pool: UFA Jets; $1.2M/1 yr, $100,000 SB.

--FB Lawrence Vickers: FA Texans; $2.4M/2 yrs, $230,000 SB.

PLAYERS LOST

--TE Martellus Bennett: UFA Giants; $1.8M/1 yr, $675,000SB/$100,000 RB.

--PK David Buehler (released/failed physical).

--FB Tony Fiammetta: Not tendered as RFA/Patriots; $615,000/1 yr.

--LB Bradie James: UFA Texans; $890,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.

--QB Jon Kitna (UFA; retired).

--OG Kyle Kosier (released).

--CB Terence Newman (released/post-June 1 designation).

--WR Laurent Robinson: UFA Jaguars; $32.5M/5 yrs, $8M SB/$13.6M guaranteed.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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