Sports Outside the Beltway

Dallas Cowboys sign LB Rocky Boiman

Len Pasquarelli reports that the Dallas Cowboys have added another linebacker to the mix, signing former Titan Rocky Boiman.

Continuing to rebuild their linebacker corps, the Dallas Cowboys on Monday reached a contract accord with unrestricted free agent Rocky Boiman, a four-year veteran from the Tennessee Titans. The former Notre Dame standout becomes the second linebacker added by the Cowboys since the start of the free agent signing period. Dallas earlier signed former Jacksonville Jaguars starter Akin Ayodele to a five-year contract. Ayodele, who played outside linebacker in Jacksonville will move inside at Dallas.

The Cowboys lost two starters from 2005. Dat Nguyen retired because of a neck injury and Scott Fujita signed with New Orleans as a free agent. Because the Cowboys play a 3-4 defense, they need quantity as well as quality at the position.

Boiman, 26, will sign a three-year contract, the financial details of which were not yet available.

It is not yet certain where Boiman will play in the Dallas defense, but his versatility is a valuable asset, whether he wins a starting spot or is a top reserve. Boiman played both outside spots for the Titans and, given his size (6-feet-4, 236 pounds), he has the potential to play one of the inside positions in a 3-4 front. Several teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals, demonstrated interest in Boiman as a free agent. Most of those teams viewed Boiman, who is also a special teams standout, as a potential starter. A fourth-round choice in the 2002 draft, Boiman has 113 tackles, 1½ sacks and two interceptions in 54 appearances, including 11 starts. His best season was in 2003, when he registered 55 tackles. Boiman has good enough range, most teams feel, to play as a nickel linebacker.

The Cowboys on Monday also re-signed two-year veteran cornerback Jacques Reeves, an “exclusive rights” player, who was a seventh-round choice in the 2004 draft.

Excellent news. Frankly, I had never heard of Boiman but I like the signing of a starting caliber linebacker who should be coming into his prime. Given that teams generally do not let young starting caliber guys get onto the market, however, I hope the Cowboys did not overpay.

Update: writer Nick Eatman reports that Boiman was signed to a very modest (by NFL standards) contract.

Photo Rocky Boiman set a Titans club record with 28 special teams stops in 2002. One week the Cowboys looked like mere bystanders as the free-agent world seemed to be moving right on past them. But now, after signing their fourth player on Monday in a three-day span, the Cowboys are becoming one of the more active teams since the start of the free-agent signing period. While Saturday was a monumental day for the Cowboys, not only signing wide receiver Terrell Owens to a three-year, $25 million deal, but they also inked offensive tackle Jason Fabini and tight end Ryan Hannam. And they continued this signing frenzy on Monday, acquiring Tennessee Titans unrestricted linebacker Rocky Boiman with a three-year deal that included a $1 million signing bonus. With playing incentives, Boiman’s deal can be as much as $5 million over the three years.

While Boiman has started only 11 games in his previous seasons with the Titans, he has been one of the team’s most consistent special teams players. Boiman recorded 15 tackles in the kicking game last year, along with 28 on defense. In 2003, Boiman had a career-high 55 tackles, along 1½ sacks and two interceptions. As a rookie in 2002, he set a Titans record with 28 special teams tackles.

Boiman is expected to play both inside and outside linebacker for the Cowboys, most likely as a backup. But upgrading special teams and adding depth at the linebacker position has been a top priority, considering the Cowboys placed five linebackers on injured reserve last season, including starters Dat Nguyen and Al Singleton in mid-season.

The Cowboys signed Akin Ayodele to a five-year, $15 million contract last week with the intention of moving the former Jacksonville linebacker from the outside to inside in their 3-4 scheme. Ayodele was highly productive with the Jags, and became the only player in franchise history to post four consecutive 100-tackle seasons. And Ayodele’s contract suggests he will likely take over the other starting inside spot next to Bradie James, who is coming off a 109-tackle season last year.

As for Boiman, he should give the club some added depth inside, where Scott Shanle is a restricted free agent and Ryan Fowler will be entering his third season. The Cowboys are counting on DeMarcus Ware to start at one outside position, with the likes of Singleton, Kevin Burnett and possibly even Kalen Thornton battling for the other spot. The Cowboys are hoping Boiman can help out on the outside as well.

Signing a versatile, young player that other teams were eyeing as a starter for duty as a special teams and backup role is quite encouraging. Not only does it seem to indicate that the Cowboys will be quite deep at a pivotal position–they run a 3-4 defense, which is linebacker dependant–but it may be a sign that free agents think the Cowboys have a good chance to win a championship.

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