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Cowboys sign DT Ferguson, G Rivera

IRVING, Texas (March 3, 2005) -- The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive tackle Jason Ferguson and guard Marco Rivera, two more needed players to their offseason upgrade.

The Cowboys also signed cornerback Anthony Henry and quarterback Drew Bledsoe last week, filling their four most pressing needs just two days into free agency.

"Our plan was to be very aggressive in free agency," said owner Jerry Jones, who wrote $30 million worth of bonus checks this week. "If you're going to go, go and go quick."

Like Bledsoe, Ferguson is a former draftee of Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. Parcells has often called the massive defensive tackle one of the best picks he's ever made, mainly because he snagged him in the seventh round for the New York Jets.

Ferguson was expected to get a five-year deal.

With plenty of room under the salary cap, clearly defined needs after a 6-10 season and Parcells' urgency to win this season, the Cowboys were anticipating a big start to the free-agent signing period. Ferguson, Henry and Rivera were all in town March 2. Dallas wound up finishing only Henry's deal that day -- five years, roughly $11 million in bonus money.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Ferguson becomes the anchor of what will be a revamped defensive line, especially if the Cowboys shift from the 4-3 to a 3-4. Regardless, he becomes the block-eating wide body to pair next to perennial Pro Bowl pick La'Roi Glover.

Rivera has blocked for Brett Favre in Green Bay for the past nine years, playing every game the last six. He's expected to take over at right guard, a problem spot throughout last season. He signed for five years with a $9 million signing bonus.

Ferguson is 30 and Rivera is 33, further indication that the Cowboys are building for 2005, when Parcells will be in the second-to-last year of his contract.

Henry is 28 and has no direct ties to Parcells, but he does have a connection with a Dallas assistant. Todd Bowles is the only position coach he's had in the NFL, having worked together the past four years in Cleveland.

Henry had 10 interceptions as a rookie in 2001, but just seven since. Still, he's considered a physical corner (85 tackles last season) who should be far more reliable on the right side than any of the four players Dallas was forced to use last season after not signing any free agents to play opposite Terence Newman.

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