Everyone Wins

Signing Michael Sam goes beyond Jerry Jones attention-grabbing and makes real sense for Cowboys

Signing Michael Sam is much more than Jerry Jones attention-grabbing

Michael Sam of the Dallas Cowboys
Michael Sam is the newest member of the Dallas Cowboys. Photo via Facebook
Michael Sam of the Dallas Cowboys
Sam made his debut at Valley Ranch on September 3. Photo via Facebook
Michael Sam of the Dallas Cowboys
Michael Sam of the Dallas Cowboys

There will be cynicism surrounding the signing of Michael Sam by the Dallas Cowboys to their practice squad, just as there was cynicism when the St. Louis Rams drafted him in May. That cynicism will relate more to the intentions of the team’s owner and general manager, Jerry Jones, than to Sam’s sexual orientation.

It’s a week after Don Van Natta’s tremendous, all-access piece on Jones. In that piece Jones is quoted as saying that drafting Johnny Manziel “would have made us [the Cowboys] relevant for the next 10 years,” seeming to eschew the on-field ramifications of such a draft selection for the sake of publicity.

 The Cowboys offer Sam the one thing the Rams could not — opportunity. 

Meanwhile, Manziel Mania author Jim Dent wrote that Jones was the only one in the Cowboys organization that wanted Manziel and alluded to the fact that Jones’ son, Stephen, had to take the card with Manziel’s name out of the elder Jones’ hand on draft day. Now, that may be hyperbole, but there is no doubt Jones wanted the former Texas A&M quarterback.

The Cleveland Browns took Manziel in the first round, and his jersey was the top seller this preseason. Guess where Sam ranked in preseason jersey sales? Sixth. And guess which NFL team is the only team that keeps 100 percent of its jersey sales? Yep, the Cowboys.

The Cowboys don’t mass-produce practice squad jerseys for sale. But there’s nothing stopping a Cowboys fan from heading over to NFL.com and building a custom Sam jersey with his No. 46. By the way — his number will change if he’s called up to the active roster, as NFL rules cite that defensive ends can’t wear a number below 50.

The Cowboys draw a horde of media each day. Sam’s presence at Valley Ranch probably jammed the parking lot. I’ve been to Valley Ranch on days when cars had to park on Cowboys Parkway, the road that leads to the entry to the facility. I’m certain that single-file line of cars stretched all the way to Landry Court. That’s about a half-mile walk.

Many believe Jones loves attention more than winning. Sam will certainly bring that to Valley Ranch. And where was Jones on a day when the media was crushing Valley Ranch? At the State Capital in Austin promoting Cowboys scratch-off lottery tickets.

 Sam isn’t on the active roster. But considering the depth of issues surrounding this defensive line, it’s realistic to assume his wait may not be long.

But set aside the cynicism and you’ll quickly come to the realization that this was a football move too.

“We feel he has a chance to come in at a position we’ve tried to address really throughout the offseason, throughout training camp, and compete for a spot,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday morning.

Sam isn’t on the active roster. But considering the depth of issues surrounding this defensive line, it’s realistic to assume his wait may not be long.

The Cowboys kept 11 defensive linemen after final cuts on Saturday. Two of them — Demarcus Lawrence and Anthony Spencer — are injured and won’t play. Since then the Cowboys have traded for a defensive end, signed another defensive end and have brought in Sam.

Their prized offseason acquisition, defensive tackle Henry Melton, didn’t play a down in the preseason. Last year’s returning sack leader, George Selvie, is battling a shoulder injury. The rest of the defensive ends on the active roster didn’t register a single sack for Dallas last year.

If it’s possible, this defensive line looks worse off than a year ago. The Cowboys offer the one thing the Rams could not — opportunity. The Rams were stacked on the defensive line, and it says something about how good their defensive line is that they cut Sam, who had three sacks and 11 tackles in the preseason. The Rams allowed Sam to prove he could play in the NFL. Now he must prove he can take the next step and make an active roster.

“I’m trying to help the Cowboys any way I can so I can earn a spot on this team and help us win games,” Sam said on Wednesday. He said that to a throng of media stacked five deep around him and with the hum of camera shutters repeatedly snapping as he spoke.

Sam gets his shot to make an active NFL roster. Jones gets publicity. I guess everyone wins in Dallas today.