Expecting a mock draft, were you?
As the moment ticks closer (6 days, 1 hour, 51 minutes and 20 seconds as I type this, not that I’m counting), the Dallas Cowboys have quietly made a move that could impact, if only slightly, their draft day strategy. That move is the singing of free agent wide receiver LaRon Byrd.
Byrd is a 6-4, 220-pounder out of Miami who went undrafted in 2012 before finding himself on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster. Byrd logged one catch that entire season and then, in preseason 2013, got his bell rung to the tune of a season-ending concussion and would up on Arizona’s injured reserve list.
He was released in early April so the Cardinals could sign some linemen.
It was a cruel fate for Byrd, a big-bodied receiver who has hardly had a chance to prove himself in the NFL. Dallas worked him out a few weeks ago and evidently decided that he was worth taking a chance on. They inked him to a two-year deal yesterday, a deal with undisclosed but probably miniscule financial commitments.
This brings the number of receivers on the roster to eight: Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant, Terrance
Williams, Tim Benford, Lance Lewis and Jamar Newsome are the other guys.
Benford, Lewis and Newsome are long shots to make the roster. Newsome is the only one of the three with any NFL receptions, his five coming back in 2012 with the Chiefs.
With only four NFL-caliber receivers on the roster, Dallas’s need to draft a wide receiver has been vastly underplayed all offseason. Cole Beasley is hardly a sure bet in the slot, and as the de facto number three he’d be seeing far more snaps than he has to this point in his career.
Depth, too, is an issue. Bryant battles hamstring troubles seemingly every year. The Cowboys in general often play like a bad episode of “The Walking Dead”–the team is constantly banged up. Losing just one of the starting receivers would throw the whole corps into disarray at this point.
Byrd may not be a viable starting option, but, barring injury, he should be a roster lock. Since cutting Miles Austin, Dallas has had no breathing room at all for its receivers, but Byrd changes that.
It’s true that the Cowboys will probably still draft a receiver next week, but the team has always had more pressing needs. Before the Byrd signing, netting a high-quality receiver before Round 5 felt like a huge priority. Now the Cowboys can address what they actually need to without worrying so much about their No. 5 receiver.
Wide receiver may be the deepest position in this year’s draft, and there are better options than Byrd, even in the middle rounds. If one of their guys falls to them, they’ll take him.
But with coveted size, soft hands and a chip on his shoulder, Byrd will have the whole team breathing a sigh of relief. It’s signings like this one that help a team on draft day–by addressing a thin roster position, the Cowboys can sign talent in other positions and increase their chances of landing a real difference-maker to push them over the top.
As always, remember to check out our Dallas Cowboys page for all your team news and analysis.