There has been a lot of speculation that the Cowboys' will sign Ray Lewis. That speculation doesn't seem to by dieing down, despite Jerry Jones saying he will not make a big splash in free agency.
Many have argued it is a great idea because he will provide veteran leadership in the locker room and bring some of the more divisive players to heel. In my opinion, this is the wrong reason to sign an aging star player. In fact, I think some of the people hoping for this acquisition in Dallas are being blinded by visions of Lewis having a less than cordial meeting with TO.
Leadership and locker room respect are not transitive properties. They are earned over the course of years while playing for one team. Lewis earned his position of leadership with every bruising hit over the course of his 12-year career. Lewis can never be the leader for another team in the same way he is a leader for the Ravens, not without first earning it on the field over at least a couple years.
Veteran players, no matter how legendary, are rarely able to acccomplish this feat. Does it happen? Sure. Rod Woodson earned a leadership role on the Ravens after moving there for a 4-year stint after a long career in Pittsburgh. But he was helped by the ability to switch to a new position. Kurt Warner did it in Arizona, but it is arguably easier for a quarterback, especially a high character guy who started in the new city with low expectations. When it comes to veteran stars moving to new teams, there are a lot more Favres than Woodsons and Warners.
When legends on the downside of their careers walk into another locker room and try to assert the leadership role they had with their former team, more often than not, it results in hard feelings. This potential move would likely backfire with Lewis adding one more strong personality to the locker room mix at the very time his physical ability starts to recede. While he had a superb season this year, as a soon to be 34 year-old hard hitting linebacker, it is hard to imagine he has that much left in the tank.
If you can't get good leadership from the coaching staff (or are unwilling to provide that staff the support needed to establish leadership), looking for it from a player in another team's locker room is not the answer.
Unless they are just looking to upgrade a position for one to two years, I think the Cowboys, if they want to spend big money on a free agent, should look for a younger player in the upside of his career who can earn a leadership role over the course of a few seasons.