Cowboys Sign CB Gareon Conley, LB Willie Harvey Jr.

The UFL’s first season is complete, and teams can now officially sign players who took part in the merged league. The Cowboys are among those who will do so, and their effort will bring a former first-round pick back into the NFL.

Gareon Conley is signing with the Cowboys, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Calvin Watkins. This comes after the team worked out the former Raiders first-rounder last week. The Cowboys are also adding UFL linebacker Willie Harvey, per’s Tom Pelissero. Harvey also auditioned for Dallas at its minicamp as well.

For Conley, this will be a path back to the NFL after a lengthy hiatus. Conley was last in the league as a Texan in 2020; he has not seen game action since 2019. The Cowboys have since announced the signing, which will reunite Conley with Paul Guenther. The new Dallas assistant served as Oakland’s DC from 2018-19. The Raiders drafted Conley in the 2017 first round and used him as a starter during the 2018 and ’19 slates, trading him to the Texans midway through the ’19 season. Guenther is the Cowboys’ run-game coordinator on defense.

Dallas worked out both Conley and ex-Giants first-rounder Deandre Baker. Both played for the D.C. Defenders during this UFL season. Conley, who will turn 29 later this month, intercepted two passes this season. Despite Baker earning All-UFL acclaim, he has not landed an NFL gig yet. As Conley earned a CB spot, Watkins adds no Baker deal is expected.

Part of a lengthy line of Ohio State first-round corners, Conley saw an injury interrupt his progress. He played in just two games as a rookie but received a long look during Jon Gruden‘s early seasons at the helm. The Raiders used Conley as a 20-game starter from 2018-19. Pro Football Focus assigned the 6-foot cover man mid-pack grades from 2018-19; he finished the ’19 season — after the Raiders and Texans agreed on a trade involving a third-round pick going to Houston — as a starting CB for a playoff team. Conley, who intercepted three passes in 2018, closed the ’19 season as a full-time Texans starter who worked with the first-stringers in both Houston playoff tilts that year. Conley missed the 2020 season due to a nagging ankle injury and fell off the NFL radar soon after.

This certainly represents an interesting comeback opportunity, seeing as it has now been more than four years since Conley last logged NFL game action. But the Cowboys have shown an eye for talent out of the spring leagues in recent years, having found Pro Bowlers Brandon Aubrey and KaVontae Turpin via the USFL.

The Cowboys are planning to use a Trevon DiggsDaRon BlandJourdan Lewis trio atop their CB depth chart, and the team has some recent draftees — former third-rounder Nahshon Wright and recent Day 3 investments Eric Scott Jr. and Caelen Carson — as backup options. Veteran C.J. Goodwin, 34, remains on Dallas’ roster as well. While teams can stash more vested vets on practice squads compared to the setup when Conley last played, his age would complicate that route. Still, Dallas will give the former top prospect an opportunity to make an unexpected return.

Several teams showed interest in Harvey, per Pelissero, but the Cowboys workout will lead the UFL linebacker to the NFC East. Harvey, who led UFL LBs in tackles (76) while tallying four sacks, last played as a Browns reserve in 2021. Harvey, 28, played four NFL games after entering the league as a UDFA out of Iowa State in 2019.

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