Michael Sam signed with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad Wednesday morning.
The defensive end, who is attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, will join the Cowboys’ 10-man practice squad in hopes of making its 53-man roster. While playing for St. Louis, Sam had three sacks during the preseason, with Johnny Manziel one of his victims.
Here’s what you need to know about Sam’s signing:
1. Jason Garrett Got ‘Nothing But Good Reports About Him’
After being cut from the St. Louis Rams, who drafted the former SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the 7th Round, Saturday, Sam flew to Dallas on Tuesday to undergo a physical Tuesday.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett announced Sam’s new contract Wednesday morning at a press conference:
He (Sam) was obviously a very good player in college. His track record speaks for itself. We just want to give him a chance to come in and help our football team. That’s where our attention is [football]. What people say outside the organization is up to them.
But while the Cowboys coach was complimentary of Sam, he reiterated several times in his press conference that they were spending too much time talking about a practice squad player, and Sam still needs to make the 53-man roster.
2. He’s From Texas But Never Followed the Cowboys
Before going to Missouri, Sam went to high school at Hitchcock High School, located right outside of Houston. While there, he won First-Team All-District honors as a senior in 2008 as a defensive end, and also as an offensive lineman, and he was also named All-Houston Metro as a defensive end.
But despite being the No. 75 defensive end in the country in high school, Sam never had a favorite NFL team.
I never followed the Cowboys growing up because I never had a team,” Sam MailOnline. “I am a fan of defenses and Dallas need some help, that’s why I’m going.”
3. Practice Squad Players Are Still Paid Well
Practice squad players are not on a team’s active roster, though it’s fairly common for a player to be summoned from the practice squad if a need arises because of an injury or suspension.
The league minimum for players on active roster’s is $420,000 per year. Practice squad players earn a minimum of $6,300 per week, which translates to $107,100 over the course of a full season. Blogging the Boys has a good primer on practice squad eligibility and salary structure.
“It’s been a roller coaster this past week but I’m happy where I’m at now,” Sam said. “I’m just looking forward to being a Cowboy, my focus is on making the team. It has all happened so quickly, but it’s exciting, I just wanna get back to playing football, you know?”
4. Sam Could Help a Terrible Cowboys Defense
While the Rams defense is one of the best in the NFL, the Cowboys defense is one of the worst. Last season, Dallas gave up the most yards (6,645) in its history and the third most in NFL history.
Sam is a 4-3 defensive end that could fit right into Dallas’ 4-3 defensive scheme.
In the offseason, the Cowboys released DeMarcus Ware, their all-time sack leader, and he signed with the Broncos.
Dallas then selected two defensive ends in the 2014 draft: DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round from Boise State; and Ben Gardner in the seventh round from Stanford. But Lawrence suffered a broken foot in training camp is expected to be placed on the IR/designated for return list, while Gardner had season-ending shoulder surgery last month.
Defensive end George Selvie, who might miss the opener with a shoulder injury, is the only Cowboys lineman who had more than two sacks last year.
5. Sam Played Well in the Preseason for the Rams
Sam, a seventh-round draft pick, came off the bench at left defensive end in all four of the Rams’ preseason games and played well for the most part.
He made a team-high 6 tackles in St. Louis’ preseason finale against Miami and finished the preseason with 11 tackles.