If you were watching social media closely during the opening hours of NFL free agency, you probably feel like lying down until your head stops spinning. The action was fast and furious. And in a bit of a departure from recent years, there was even a big trade or two to liven things up, including the deal where the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Sam Bradford from the St Louis Rams in exchange for Nick Foles, with some draft picks also changing hands. (CAUTION: The preceding link takes you to our sister site Bleeding Green Nation, where the Eagles fans are in an uproar. Enter at your own risk.)
For some time now, the Dallas Cowboys have been clear that they would not be one of the teams making big moves early in free agency. The message has been consistent for some time, and the team has lived up to what it said. While it has been linked by various sources to some free agents, the team seems very patient and there is no report of any offers being made.
But while the team is holding fire on bringing players in, there was an absolute explosion of activity from teams seeking to improve their roster with Dallas' free agents. Two are already reported to have signed with other teams.
Of the two, Durant is probably the bigger loss. Dallas is now somewhat thin at linebacker. Only Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchens, and Kyle Wilber are proven players returning to the roster. Durant was probably the best linebacker on the field early in the season, with Lee on injured reserve. But he soon joined Lee on IR. There were reports that the Cowboys were close to a deal with him, but that was in error. Now he is definitely gone. Harris is a proven special teams ace, but was the fourth wide receiver on the roster and was probably made expendable when Dallas re-signed Cole Beasley.
The big story today for the Cowboys, and for several other teams, was of course DeMarco Murray. The first team reported to be making a serous run for him was the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Oakland Raiders have also been linked to him, but have already signed Roy Helu, which would make spending the money on Murray to have both in the backfield seem illogical. But it is the Raiders, who have a whole lot of cap space and a poor history regarding their judgment, so who knows? And there are also these guys.
Given that Murray is reported to be looking for $9 million a year, and Chip Kelly just traded away LeSean McCoy supposedly in part because of his high salary, this makes even less sense than Oakland. But then the moves the Eagles have been making so far seem to have just about everyone puzzled. And I do mean everyone.
I'm omniscient but even I don't know what the Philadelphia Eagles are doing.— God (@TheTweetOfGod) March 10, 2015
However, what you hear on Twitter is not always Gospel. While there were numerous tweets about how the Jaguars were involved in a hard sell right now to convince Murray to sign with them, he was actually spotted at a Dallas Mavericks game hanging out with former teammate Miles Austin. And other sources maintain that the Cowboys are not really out of this fight yet, since no one knows what kind of numbers are being thrown at him.
Meanwhile, other Dallas free agents are also being courted.
So five free-agent visits now confirmed for Bucs: LB Bruce Carter, OL Stefen Wisniewski, DE Derrick Morgan, DT Henry Melton, FS Chris Conte.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) March 11, 2015
The Buccaneers are going for a two-fer, but Carter is also reported to be paying a visit just down the road from Dallas with the Houston Texans. His loss suddenly makes Rolando McClain look like a much more attractive player to re-sign. Carter was seen as another player who was very likely to leave Dallas, but in this case it was because of his uneven play. He now looks to cash in on the knack he had for big plays late in games, including his team leading five interceptions. With Durant leaving, the Cowboys view of him might change, but they now face the same issue of having his price bid up that they face with so many others. Meanwhile there was some thought that Melton might be offered a low-price deal to return to Dallas, but if he gets any kind of offer from Tampa Bay, he is probably gone.
Dallas was seen last year as having an outstanding offense and less talented but overachieving defense. But the rest of the league seems to see a lot about the Cowboys' defensive players that they like.
Cowboys free agent DE Anthony Spencer drawing interest from multiple teams http://t.co/TRLFLgHToG— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) March 11, 2015
Spencer is another player that was mentioned as a possible player that the Cowboys might want to bring back on a team-friendly deal. Now he is probably going to cost more than he might have if Dallas had tried to sign him earlier.
This is the danger that the Cowboys ran in letting these players go to free agency without a contract, but the team had some reasons for all of them. Most important is the issue of the salary cap. There simply was not enough money available to bring back everyone, and the team put the highest priority on retaining Dez Bryant and re-signing Doug Free. They always knew that Murray could be bought away from them. The rest of the UFAs that are still out there are ones that are believed to be expendable to some degree. And until some hard numbers come up and signatures are put on contracts, there are still a lot of things that can happen. But the first day of free agency was a busy one in Dallas, even though management really did not want to see it work out this way.