Cowboys 2014 Free Agency Goes For Youth Movement
The Cowboys have been steadily trimming the age of their roster over the last few years, and the releases of DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin are two more steps in that process.
The Dallas Cowboys are now facing their first season in a long time without former stars DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff on the roster to start the year. What do those three have in common? They all played along the defensive line, they all were some of the best players the Cowboys had, and they are all on the wrong side of 30. In case you've missed it, the Cowboys are making a concerted effort to get younger. It's not just a random occurrence but something the organization is doing on purpose.
"Total respect for those guys and only wish them the very best, but that's why we have to make tough decisions - we've been through that. I keep saying it's a young man's game," [Stephen] Jones said. "There's guys who defy that, and if I were going to bet on guys, you'd love to bet on a guy like Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware - they're amazing men, they're great football players, obviously DeMarcus is probably going in the Hall of Fame. You wish them nothing but the best, but that's why we have to make those tough decisions and why we decided to get young as a football team."
"What we just went through, losing a DeMarcus Ware and a Jason Hatcher and a Jay Ratliff, some of those guys that were cornerstones year in and year out for you, you've got to start the journey," [Jerry Jones] said. "Obviously we did that with DeMarcus Lawrence, and certainly a focus of ours is to improve the defense."
Coach Jason Garrett discussed how it's difficult for aging players who are nursing injury during the season.
"We had a lot of guys on our football team the last couple of years who didn't practice during the week getting ready for a game, because they were dealing with injuries and they happened to be older guys," Garrett said. "So it's always been a younger man's league. We've made that transition and we're going to give some younger guys a chance to compete."
It's one thing to get younger, it's another to get younger and better. That's what the Cowboys are attempting. Along the offensive line, there can be no doubt the results are a positive. When you spend three first-round picks in four years building up a new line, it should be younger and better or you have done some bad drafting. Dallas has fortunately hit the mark. To read much more about how young the Cowboys offensive line has gotten, please review OCC's brilliant work, here.
Recently, an ESPN Insider article attempted to rate all 32 teams' under-25 talent. The Cowboys have showed up at the bottom of many rankings this offseason, but here is one where they did pretty well, landing just outside of the top-10.
11. Dallas Cowboys
If we trust Dallas has made the right decisions, the Cowboys have three young, first-round picks on the offensive line with left tackle Tyron Smith being the best piece. Smith had a Pro Bowl season in 2013 by leading the point of attack on the ground. If center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin can follow his lead, then Tony Romo could have his best offensive line yet. He also has a solid deep threat in Terrance Williamsentering his second season. Devin Street was the most productive receiver in Pittsburgh history, and he could see some playing time as a rookie. Tight end Gavin Escobar should get more work than he did last year, behidn Jason Witten.
We haven't mentioned any defenders yet, because that's obviously the biggest flaw on this team right now. Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, should be an asset, but he lost his job to Orlando Scandrick last season and hasn't impressed. J.J. Wilcox is expected to get his shot at safety, and second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence could see the field early as a pass-rusher, but there's not much hope, young or old, on this side of the ball.
We'll just have to see if that holds true for the defense. The Cowboys are loaded up at all positions on offense with young talent outside of Tony Romo and Jason Witten. On defense, they've added some pieces that aren't under 25 but are still under-30, guys like Henry Melton. It remains to be seen how Dallas does in 2014, but they are certainly laying the foundation for a contending team down the line.