Cap penalty no handicap for Cowboys

The Cowboys promised that the NFL’s salary-cap penalty wouldn’t keep them from doing what they needed to do in free agency. So far, they’ve lived up to that claim.

The Cowboys hauled in six free agents over two days, and all of them seemed to fit a need without costing an exorbitant price.

Sure, the Cowboys probably paid a little too much for cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed a reported five-year deal for $50.1 million. But that was Dallas’ primary position of need, and Carr was the only high-value cornerback left on the market.

Getting dinged for $10 million — $5 million this year and next —by the NFL didn’t keep the Cowboys from making a big-money signing, or from filling other areas of need. They were penalized for getting too cute with Miles Austin’s contract during the uncapped 2010 season.

“Obviously, getting the cap hit, you have to deal with it and the ramifications of that,” Stephen Jones, the Cowboys’ chief operating officer, told The Dallas Morning News and others this week.

“But it’s not going to stop us from being able to do the things we have to do to be a championship caliber football team in 2012.”

Whether the Cowboys are indeed championship caliber remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt at this point the cap hit has had little impact.

The Cowboys did not re-sign third wide receiver Laurent Robinson, but to blame that on the cap penalty is a stretch. Robinson signed with Jacksonville for five years and $32.5 million.

It’s hard to believe, even without the cap hit, that the Cowboys would have paid that much for a third wide receiver, even one as productive as Robinson was last season.

Robinson showed an obvious rapport with quarterback Tony Romo in catching 54 passes for 11 touchdowns last season, but a team just doesn’t pay a third receiver that much. He will be the No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville, while Austin and Dez Bryant remain Dallas’ well-compensated Nos. 1 and 2 wideouts.

It’s possible the cap hit cost the Cowboys fullback Tony Fiammetta, who was let go rather than pay him $1.26 million this season. Lawrence Vickers was signed for a reported base salary of $800,000 this season plus a $200,000 signing bonus.

So we’re not talking a huge savings by allowing Fiammetta to walk. More likely, Fiammetta wasn’t as productive after missing several games with an inner-ear problem, while Vickers is a proven blocker.

The Cowboys also picked up a guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau, and the best backup quarterback available, Kyle Orton.

The Cowboys added some safety help Thursday by signing Brodney Pool, formerly of the New York Jets, and a young inside linebacker, Dan Connor.

Pool should help bring some life to a secondary that sorely lacked playmakers the past few years. Connor should push Bruce Carter for a starting job alongside Sean Lee. Connor also might just push veterans Bradie James and Keith Brookings out the door.

And the Cowboys might not be done signing free agents. They are reportedly seeking another offensive guard, and who knows who else might show up at Valley Ranch.

The only thing for sure is that the NFL’s salary-cap penalty has not kept the club from going on a shopping spree.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire