The Dallas Cowboys are owned and run (into the ground) by Jerry Jones, and we know what Jerry Jones is and what Jerry Jones loves. Jerry Jones is kind of a genius/coot that loves the spotlight, so the latest news out of Valley Ranch should come as a shock to exactly 0% of the people that pay attention to this sort of thing. ESPN reported Tuesday afternoon that the Cowboys are flying Michael Sam into town to take a physical on Wednesday. If all goes well on that front, Dallas is expected to add Sam to their practice squad.
You’re aware of the backstory by now. Sam conducted an interview several months ago during which he came out as openly gay, and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round of May’s draft. He had a few sacks and generally performed well in the preseason for the Rams, but was unable to make the final roster due in large part to St. Louis’ tremendous depth along the defensive front. Sam was placed on waivers, but no team scooped him up. After he became a free agent, Dallas didn’t waste much time swooping in.
The Cowboys owned what was statistically one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL last season, and then promptly lost their best four defensive players this offseason. DeMarcus Ware was cut and signed with Denver, Jason Hatcher inked a lucrative deal with the Redskins, Sean Lee tore his ACL (naturally) and Orlando Scandrick was suspended for four games because he thought it’d be a good idea to pop some hallucinogens while vacationing in Mexico. They also lost their second-round pick, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, for a few months after he broke his foot in training camp. The Cowboys were already thin defensively, and now they’re skin-and-bones.
Again, the Cowboys aren’t signing Sam to the active roster, they’re probably signing him to the practice squad. However, we see practice squad players eventually picked-up and put onto rosters all the time, especially once the injuries begin to roll in. There’s a decent chance that, at some point, Sam actually dons a uniform.
Sam has been a hot-button topic since his announcement, and there’s no more polarizing player out there this side of John Manziel. Jerry was (reportedly) essentially forced by his Cowboys front office brethren to pass on the chance to draft Manziel, so why not get the next best thing in here? If you don’t think Jerry is going to sell the hell out of Michael Sam Cowboys jerseys, you are high. Probably higher than Orlando Scandrick.
The knock on Sam as a player is that he’s too small and not athletic enough for his position, which is undoubtedly true. How many 250-pound defensive ends are there running around the NFL? Elvis Dumervil and that’s it. Can Sam become Elvis Dumervil? He’s fundamentally sound and tries hard, which certainly helps his case. But the notion that Sam is being screwed over simply because he’s gay is missing the point entirely. He’s a fringe NFL talent that has a chance at success if he’s able to find the right role. There are tons of players that excelled in college and found it tougher to do the same at the next level. It’s also true that tons of players fall through-the-cracks in the draft evaluation process and eventually become superstars. Hell, the Cowboys’ fucking franchise quarterback is one of them. We really don’t know what kind of player Michael Sam can be until we see him actually playing against top-tier talent, and it may happen here.
The combination of lack of talent and lack of depth probably means the Cowboys are going to be pretty mediocre once again this season. Maybe even terrible, depending on how the defense performs and if Tony Romo’s back holds up. Michael Sam will probably get a shot with the big club at some point, and the media coverage will be over-the-top and out-of-control. Hopefully ESPN can abstain from the desire to inform us of his showering habits this time around.
From a purely football perspective, this is a sensible move by the Cowboys. Shitty defensive line depth means they should be scouring every possible avenue in search of help. If they think Michael Sam is the best option among players that may turn into something, then why not pick him up? But there’s also no doubt that part of this stems from the fact that Jerry Jones’ eyes turned into dollar signs once he saw that Sam was available, and, for that reason, this was almost inevitable.