Cowboys Window is Wide Open

If I were an NFL free agent, there would be two primary factors that would weigh heavy in my choosing of a new destination. Firstly, as in any field, you have to find an employer who will pay you fair market value for your services. Secondly, I would not exactly be looking for a team who was set up to win right now, but rather a team that is set up to contend annually for a number of years. If the Dallas Cowboys are right about their quarterback (and I think they are), they have the look of one of those teams.

Based on last season’s opening day roster the Dallas Cowboys were actually the league’s third oldest team with and average age of 28.22 years per player. The acquisitions of Keith Brooking and Jon Kitna pretty much negate the dumping of Anthony Henry and Greg Ellis. Still the possibility of adding as many as 12 rookies will drop the teams overall average age dramatically. Most importantly, the Cowboys have a young core, so most of the teams key players will be around for a while.

There is a point in a player’s career when his knowledge for the game reaches its optimum level while his physical ability is still near it’s peak. Most believe this happens around age 28 for positional players, and a little closer to 30 for quarterbacks. If that is true, most of the Cowboys nucleus will be at or near their prime in the very near future.

Take a look at some of the Cowboys’ key players and their respective ages as of the start of the 2009 regular season:

Make the jump...

Tony Romo - 29
Bradie James- 28
Ken Hamlin - 28
Jay Ratliff - 28
Roy Williams - 28
Jason Witten - 27
DeMarcus Ware - 27
Igor Olshansky - 27
Gerald Sensabaugh - 26

 

The good organizations never go through a true rebuilding period. By maintaining a steady infusion of young talent and cutting ties with declining veterans, the good franchises simply reload. As a direct result of recent draft success, the Cowboys seem to have a fully-loaded magazine on deck as well. The Cowboys have a wave of key contributors (and rookies with bright futures) who will be entering their peak years just as the players in the current core group move into their thirties:

Anthony Spencer - 25
Tashard Choice - 25
Miles Austin - 25
Mike Jenkins - 24
Michael Hamlin - 24
Jason Williams - 23
Felix Jones - 22
Martellus Bennett - 22
Orlando Scandrick - 22
Brandon Williams - 21

 

The Dallas Cowboys have a real shot of contending for the Lombardi trophy on an annual basis if they can get about three things to go their way.

1. Tony Romo - Romo has to stay healthy, and he has to turn the corner. We’ve seen what the Cowboys offense looks like without Romo. I would love to see Romo come out this season and silence all of his doubters. If Romo does not take the next step, and the Cowboys decide at some point to move off of him, it could throw a real wrench into the Cowboys future. It is not often that teams make a smooth transition at quarterback, and I can’t see a team this talented being willing to wait for a young guy (Stephen McGee) to work through his growing pains. The Cowboys need Tony Romo to stay healthy and play at a high level for the better part of the coming decade.

2. Offensive Line - The Cowboys are going to have to get some future starters in place along the offensive line. All of the O-line starters are in their thirties. Flozell Adams is the oldest, and seems at times to have the least left in the tank, so finding a future left tackle is key. The Cowboys may be inclined to invest an early selection in next year’s draft to insure that that position does not soon become a crippling weakness. If the Doug Free's and Robert Brewster's of the team can develop, the line may be in better shape than most think. If the Cowboys can make smooth transitions along the line in the early part of the next decade, this offense ought to be good for a very long time.

3. The Draft - 2008 was a homerun draft. Of course we can’t make a judgment on 2009’s class, but it is fair to say that is at least looks promising. Another draft or two like these will go a long way toward solidifying the team’s future. After going heavy on defense in ‘09, look for the Cowboys to have a little more interest in shoring up the offensive side of the ball. Offensive line will be a priority. All of the great organizations are built through the draft, and the Cowboys will have to keep making solid selections (and keep developing the talent) to keep pace with those teams.

I see and hear a lot of analysts talking about how the window of opportunity is closing for the Cowboys. With a roster full of cornerstones nearing their primes, and a second wave readying to step in, I think that the Cowboys window of opportunity is just really beginning to open. Looking into the future, it appears that the Cowboys are setting themselves up to contend for the long haul.

Don’t confuse my optimism for patience. They can just go ahead and win one this year if they like!

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