For anyone that has followed the Dallas Cowboys over the past few years, the days of making huge, splash signings in free agency are all but gone. 2012 was the prime example of how badly the Cowboys can get burned by overspending in free agency. Heading into that offseason, the Cowboys had a clear need at the cornerback position. To fill that hole, the Cowboys shelled out a ton of money for Brandon Carr, even though he was a No. 2 cornerback coming from a defense that was loaded with talent.
While a team may have a glaring need, it shouldn't just shell out money to the top player at that position. Instead, the team should fit the position with the right player. And as the last four years have shown, Carr was not the right fit. With June 1st right around the corner, Carr is a serious candidate to be cut as a post June 1st cut, saving the Cowboys around $9 million in cap space for this offseason.
Dallas came into this offseason with glaring needs at defensive end, cornerback, defensive tackle, backup quarterback and running back. In just a couple of days, the Cowboys re-signed a ton of their own, bringing in just one player from outside the roster in defensive tackle Cedric Thornton. Despite having some cap space to wiggle around and make some high-end moves, the Cowboys have been viewers rather than players in this year's free agency period. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The Cowboys could've been in play for Mario Williams, but after it was reported that teams were willing to give him $17 million on a two-year deal at age 31, those ideas went completely out the window. With the defensive end market getting slim, the Cowboys will have one more big opportunity to salvage a blue-chip prospect when Chris Long comes in for a visit. However, just because Long comes in for a visit doesn't exactly mean he'll end up falling in love with the Cowboys. This offseason has shown that money is key with everything. That's the exact case what has happened in the past week.
In an attempt to fill the backup quarterback position behind Tony Romo, the Cowboys brought in Matt Moore for a visit. It seemed like a good spot for Moore, a 32-year-old journeyman who has performed when called upon in his NFL career. Moore left the facility without a deal and the same thing happened with Nolan Carroll. Carroll was seen as a guy who could be a stopgap across from the re-signed Morris Claiborne. He was also seen as Carr's replacement if the Cowboys did in fact release him.
Moore and Carroll remain both unsigned and while the Cowboys are still in the race for one of, if not both of them, the fact remains that the rest of Dallas' free agency decisions will all hinge off money. This is the new generation for Cowboys' management. The combined balance of power between Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, and Will McClay has this team going in the right direction.
Don't forget the Cowboys will have to extend two All Pro offensive lineman in the coming years and when you see what the market is for a guy like Kelechi Osemele, it's going to be extremely tight on the cap to retain players as crucial to the cause as Zack Martin and Travis Frederick.
Over the next few weeks, the Cowboys will do what they have done so well in the past couple of years, and that's finding talent where others haven't. Because of that, the Cowboys won't spend a ton of money in free agency. Instead, they will find a bunch of bargain-bin contributors that will impact this team in many ways come September.
But because of the Cowboys' current defensive end situation, especially the loss of Randy Gregory to four games because of suspension, Dallas needs to figure out their contingency plan at the position. Whether it's signing Long in free agency or drafting Joey Bosa with the fourth-overall pick, the defensive end problem will need to get figured out. It's all going to hinge on financial decisions, but this new direction for Cowboys' management seems to be a heck of a lot better than the last.