After a 4-12 campaign, it's easy to want to blow it all up and get fresh faces on the roster. As you've seen only a few days into free agency, that's happening quite a bit all over the league. Though the Cowboys have some gaping holes they need to fill, it's really hard to argue against their approach right now. They have stuck to their principles on spending and re-signed a lot of their own because history would suggest that's the best way to go about it. That doesn't necessarily mean they won't spend on the right players. For instance...
Cowboys sign DT Cedric Thornton, four years, up to $18 million:
This is a very sound signing and is perhaps underrated. Sure, Thornton only has four sacks in his career, but that's not why they are bringing him in. For three years now, Dallas has needed to address their 1-technique position because it seriously lacked athleticism. Nick Hayden has had a decent time playing for the Cowboys but he lacks the presence you would really like to have out of the position. Though all of Thornton's abilities have been in a 3-4 scheme, he has the size (6' 4", 309 lbs) and athleticism to switch to a 4-3 tackle. He's also played in 46 of 49 games as an Eagle and the Cowboys hope they got a play-making one to go with their pass rushing 3-technique. The deal is modest as well and is an automatic upgrade over what they had.
They've also re-signed two starters on defense in Rolando McClain and Morris Claiborne. Thought I might also mention that they re-signed some quality depth guys in James Hanna, Kyle Wilber, and backup tackle Charles Brown. Lastly, they tendered Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath, two of their best depth players. So, they have been active in this first week but also don't want to just let their own guys go produce for someone else.
They will remain at the lookout's nest to see about Nolan Carroll and will take a meeting with veteran Chris Long, per his agent's request. There is even some reported interest of looking into former Pro Bowler Eric Weddle though he had his lowest production in 2015. Needless to say, the Cowboys are working diligently to improve their team, but only on their terms. They aren't the only ones though as Green Bay, Seattle, New England, and others have done much of the same.
Meanwhile, other teams are spending like crazy and with reckless abandonment too. Our rivals in the east have been on a roll as of late. Let's start with the New York "Football" Giants:
They have spent the most thus far with $204 million in contracts on the first week of the new league year. You can argue that the spending was warranted after they were dead-last in total defense last season. The puzzling notions float in when you see the price tags for their new players. Janoris Jenkins signed for $62.5 million, Damon Harrison for $46.5 million and the big fish being Olivier Vernon with his $85 million, $52.5 guaranteed. Add those numbers to their one-year prove it deal with Jason Pierre-Paul and you have $114 of their $155 million salary cap guaranteed in 2016.
The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, are doing just about everything they can in order to undo what has been done by Chip Kelly. They've traded out of the ridiculous contract with DeMarco Murray and shipped him off to the Titans. The Eagles also got rid of Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell and signed Leodis McKelvin. They've moved up to the eighth spot in the draft after some maneuvering. It just goes to show you that sometimes free agency spending can cause headaches in as little as a year.
All of these above moves could eventually pay off and the Giants especially are hoping that their defensive woes have been wiped away. However, Stephen Jones' words of not paying good players like great players keep ringing in my head. It's such a dangerous game as the Cowboys are fully aware of. Free agency serves its purpose and is certainly needed every offseason for teams to improve their rosters. What happens though in two years time when those contracts aren't fulfilled? Those players get cut and large sums of dead money are created in the wake.
The Cowboys currently have $901,076 in dead money against the cap. That puts them in the top ten teams with the least amount of dead money. It is after all dead money that can put a beating on teams and Dallas has done an excellent job at reducing that amount significantly. It was only a year ago when the Cowboys had $18,900,840 in dead money. It's absolutely sickening to think the Cowboys paid Miles Austin $5.1 million last season for nothing. The frivolous deals of the past come back to haunt you ten-fold and the regime under Stephen Jones has put an end to it.
So, when we start looking at all these new names out on the free market, it's important to understand that waiting can bear the best fruit. Those that spend the most, regret the most. As I pointed out the other day, it's a lot of money for nothing. In the last 10 years, the six teams that have spent the most money have been the Dolphins, Jaguars, Eagles, Redskins, Buccanneers, and the Browns. The best record to have come out of that bunch has been Philadelphia with .547. While Dallas isn't done yet, building through the draft, retaining your investments, and adding a few key pieces here and there remain the winning formula in the NFL. Smart teams know this to be true and thankfully the Cowboys have made that turn.