Is This a Rebuilding Year for the Cowboys?

It is possible that trying to draw logic from this year's draft and FA period may be the futile attempts of fans to bring rationale to an inherently illogical situation.  Akin to how Redskins fans delude themselves into believe Dan Snyder has a master plan every year but it turns out to be nothing more than a series of ill-fitting decisions.

However, maybe there is a plan at work this year, and it doesn't involve winning the Super Bowl this year.  More after the jump.

Before we look at the big, let's look at the small.  In April the Cowboys made a somewhat dismaying move.  They used a high 2nd round draft pick on a linebacker who was not expected to contribute in any significant way in 2011.  A very odd decision, why would they do that?  Well, what if we look at this year's decisions as not paying off this year, but next.  If we do that, we see something interesting.  Both our starting ILBs are on the last year of their contracts and together are being paid $5.7 million.  It is also no secret that fans are concerned about the limitations and ages of both.  If Bruce Carter and Sean Lee reach their potential, they could be our starting linebackers in 2012, transforming the position with youth and speed.  Furthermore, their combined contracts would be only $1.7 million - freeing up $4 million in cap space and improving at the position.  Who could argue with those results?

Another pick in the 2011 draft was selection of Tyron Smith, in doing so we drafted a tackle that we know will struggle this year.  He's a rookie and not even old enough to buy a drink - not exactly the kind of player you want if you're trying to win a Super Bowl this year.  But his physical skills and ability to learn indicate he could be a very fast learner and could be a great RT by 2012.

So perhaps we're seeing some 2012 thinking in the draft picks.  Not drafting guys to win in 2011.  Does this match up with free agency?

The biggest moves in this year's free agency have been who Dallas has cut, not who they signed.  They cut Roy Williams, Marion Barber, Marc Colombo, and Leonard Davis.  All of these players were supposed to be key pieces of a Super Bowl run that never materialized.  Now Dallas is rebuilding at all these positions, cutting players that were once thought to be absolutely integral to Cowboys success.

Moving to who they signed, how has Dallas gone about acquiring players?  They broke out the checkbook for Doug Free, a player in his prime who will be a cornerstone of any Cowboys success over the next 4 years.  They also signed Marcus Spears, a man who, while not everything one would hope from a DE, is in his prime.  They've also signed some old men in Kenyan Coleman and Kyle Kosier but they have not married themselves to either player.  The way those contracts are structured involves low guaranteed money so they can cut ties with these stop-gaps at any time.

And one final clue comes from a Jerry Jones quote from yesterday.  When asked what he would do at right guard he responded that he wanted to see what his young guys could do.  If the Cowboys are silently rebuilding, is this not what a rebuilding team does?  It has 3-4 young guys and lets them fight it out to see who can take the reigns instead of signing a progress-stopping veteran player?

Perhaps all these moves are random and have no strategy linking them together.  Perhaps Jerry's desire not to sign a RG is stubbornness and the drafting of players who have to red shirt their freshman year is nothing more than evidence of a bad scouting department.

But maybe, when you look at all these pieces as a whole you see a team thinking longer term than just this year.  You see a team that is subtly positioning itself for a reinvigorated ILB corps.  A team that is purposefully gutting the old core of its team and strategically replacing it with long-term contracts to a new core (Austin, Dez, Free, Smith).  A team that isn't reaching in free agency because their aim isn't to peak this year, but to instead plug holes with contracts that can be easily dissolved in future years (Spears, Coleman, Kosier).

Perhaps this team is silently rebuilding because they know with a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, and a rotten core of players that needed to be removed that 2011 isn't the right year to shoot for the Super Bowl.  Perhaps this is a team that is looking to do all the right things now to maximize its chances in 2012 and 2013.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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