The first week of NFL free agency is wrapping up and one team who hasn't been that active is the Dallas Cowboys. First off, it should be said that the Cowboys have done their due diligence with many players. The team has shown the interest in Nolan Carroll, Adrian Clayborn, Matt Moore, Lamar Miller, and Eric Weddle. However, they haven't signed any of them just yet. Carroll and Moore remain available, but the others have all signed with other teams.
As the weeks progress in free agency, there will be less players of the Cowboys' choosing. Taking a look at their needs, one position that is the most glaring, to me at least, is the defensive end position. Without a veteran presence at the position, the Cowboys could run into trouble. If the season started today, because of the four-game suspension to Randy Gregory, the only starter-worthy defensive end on the roster is Demarcus Lawrence. Sure Jack Crawford could be re-signed in the next couple of days, but the Cowboys need to add someone on the edge in the next few weeks and the best available target right now is Chris Long.
Unfortunately, Long is not the dominant player he once was in the NFL. He'll be turning 31 years old at the end of the month and he's only played in 18 games in the past two seasons. Despite these deterrents, Long has made it clear that he still believes he can play and produce in the NFL.
Gonna be interesting when I get back to being me on the field next year. %notdeadyet — Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) March 14, 2016
As if this offseason hasn't proved it enough, the Cowboys are managed much differently now than how they were managed five years ago. Dallas is done overpaying declining free agents. Money has kept them away from the Olivier Vernon and Eric Weddle races. It could also keep them out of the Nolan Carroll market. This is a good thing for Dallas, given its recent problems with giving out too much money for free agents. However, it can also bite them if they are not careful.
This all leads me to my next point. Looking at the defensive end market in free agency, it's clear that the Cowboys are running out of time in terms of finding a player in free agency that can come in and immediately contribute. Long is without a doubt the best option. If Long does end up visiting with the Cowboys in free agency, management needs to put money out of the picture and do whatever it takes for Long to leave Valley Ranch as a member of the Cowboys.
Early Monday afternoon, the Cowboys restructured Tyron Smith's contract, giving the team more cap space to work with this offseason. Add that to the cap space the Cowboys created by restructuring Tyrone Crawford's deal and it's clear that Dallas may just be onto something in the next few days, if not the next few months.
Long visited the New England Patriots on Monday. However, the interesting part about his visit is that he also worked out with the team. That's a bit unusual for a visit. And while there have been some reports that Long may end up not even visiting with the Cowboys, it's worth noting that NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has said that Long will go through all of his visits and mull everything over before making a decision.
Restructuring Smith's contract gave the Cowboys $7.2 million more in cap space and with Long's visit coming right up as well as the defensive end market limited in talent, the Cowboys have to realize that biting the bullet and shelling out a good amount of money to Long may be something that needs to be done. Regardless of whether Crawford is re-signed, the Cowboys need more talent at the defensive end position.
Even if they draft Joey Bosa with the fourth-overall pick in April's draft, Dallas still needs a veteran presence that can contribute and help the developments of the younger guys on the roster. Long fits that bill and he embodies exactly what is needed to play in Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defensive scheme. The Cowboys need to sign Long in the coming days. Even if they have to shell out more money than they'd like, this is a move that can do wonders for the roster for at least the first four games of the year, until Gregory returns from his suspension.