With Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett both free agents, it was only a matter of time before the Cowboys signed a new inside linebacker. The choice was made quickly, and while there had been speculation that Dallas would look to sign 13-year veteran veteran Ray Lewis away from his only team, they instead signed 11-year veteran Keith Brooking from the Atlanta Falcons.
The deal is for three years and about $6 million with $2.5 guaranteed, according to DallasCowboys.com.
Brooking had been the Falcons defensive stalwart for the last decade, making five Pro Bowls and leading the team in tackles for the last eight seasons. Two of Brooking's Pro Bowl seasons came under Wade Phillips, who was Atlanta's defensive coordinator at the time.
Brooking admitted that Phillips' presence in Dallas played a role in his decision to join Dallas.
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“It is with very mixed emotions that I am leaving the Atlanta Falcons to join the Dallas Cowboys,” Brooking said in statement released to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I am sad to be leaving the Falcons organization, my teammates, my coaches, and of course, the great Falcons fans. However, I am excited about this new chapter in my career and rejoining my former coach Wade Phillips.”
It's no surprise that Brooking is excited to reunite with Phillips. Arguably his two best seasons came while playing inside linebacker in Wade's 3-4 defense. Brooking has spent the last few seasons playing mostly middle or outside linebacker, but inside linebacker is his best position as he can worry more about stopping the run and less about dropping back in coverage.
Singing Brooking is almost identical to the Zach Thomas signing last season, but should still represent an upgrade. Brooking is two years younger than Thomas and, unlike Thomas, isn't coming off of an injury plagued season. In fact, Brooking has started every game for the last eight seasons. Thomas led the Cowboys in tackles last year, and in Brooking it appears they found a replacement who is at worst his equal.
Wes Cox is a Dallas based blogger whose thoughts on the Mavs can be read daily at www.mavsmoneyball.com.