During his press conference wrapping his team's 2012 NFL Draft, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones mentioned that the signing of undrafted Memphis offensive lineman Ronald Leary, a mid-round tackle/guard prospect who fell out of the draft due to concerns about his left knee.
Leary had surgery to repair torn meniscus in his left knee last May, but did not miss any games for the Tigers, playing his familiar left tackle before moving inside to right guard when injuries hit the team's offensive line. Leary played in 44 games overall and made 36 straight starts to finish his college career. But when NFL doctors poked, prodded, twisted and scanned Leary's knee at the 2012 Scouting Combine, it was discovered that he had osteochondritis dissecans, a degenerative joint condition in which a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer
of the bone beneath it, comes loose from the end of a bone.
"It’s about how long he can play," Jones said according to Carlos Mendez of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “That’s why he fell to
where he fell...The coaches think he might be the readiest to come in here and help us more than any offensive lineman."
According to a league source, Jones has put his money where his mouth is.
Leary received a decent signing bonus of $9,000, but it's not the
largest on the team (Tarleton State wide receiver Saalim Hakim received
$10,000) and is the same amount the Cowboys signed Oklahoma State offensive lineman Levy Adcock for. The NFL has limitations on how much teams could spend on signing bonuses for undrafted free agents, but there are no limitations on how much guaranteed money a team can offer a player.
That's where Leary's agent, Adisa Bakari of Dow Lohnes Sports & Entertainment, and the Cowboys' assessment of the player come in. Because Leary would have been a mid-round prospect had he been healthy, and because the Cowboys feel he's a player who can make an immediate impact, $205,000 of Leary's $390,000 base salary for the 2012 season is fully guaranteed (skill, injury and cap). The total guarantee of $214,000 is in line with what Leary would have received as a signing bonus if he were the first or second player selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.