It's been quite an interesting offseason so far for the Dallas Cowboys. Despite having cap space to make some big moves, the Cowboys have been rather quiet, spreading their money out by signing impact players that won't take a fortune to sign. Adding Olivier Vernon to this front four would've been incredible, but the Cowboys were in no way going to pay over $85 million for his services.
With some key players seeing their contracts come off the books in the next few years, the Cowboys are wise to hold off spending a ton of money. Instead, the Cowboys can have some financial flexibility in the future to retain the likes of Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, among many others. Dallas' free agency wasn't the best showing, but they still added three players who can come in immediately and make a difference. Let's take a look at which role each free agent signee will likely play on the 2016 roster.
Dallas' first free agency signing was that of the ex-Philadelphia Eagle Cedric Thornton. Despite the logic of the 1-technique defensive tackle not being that important in Rod Marinelli's 4-3 defense, teams have game-planned to expose the interior part of the defense. Nick Hayden is a decent rotational piece, but he's not a starter-level guy. Hayden was incapable of clogging the interior and manning upfront.
In Thornton, the Cowboys have a player who fits what they like. He's the epitome of an athletic specimen, a true quick-twitch type of player who can penetrate gaps and be extremely disruptive in the backfield. Thornton will be a real nice piece to work with, but I'm not entirely sure he'll be an every-down starter. The Cowboys' gameplan in this area should also involve Terrell McClain and David Irving on top of Thornton.
Perhaps the biggest surprise free agent signing was Benson Mayowa. At 24 years old, Mayowa has yet to do much in his NFL career. A restricted free agent with the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys liked what they saw in Mayowa. However, the problem was that they needed to make an offer that would truly pry Mayowa away from Oakland. His contract of three years for $8.25 million was a little steep, but the Cowboys' scouting department saw enough potential out of him to make the investment. Here's what Stephen Jones said about Mayowa:
"The guy plays hard. He's got the movement that we look for in defensive linemen and we feel like he's got some upside. Do we think we're getting the next DeMarcus Ware? Probably not. But when you don't have the guy, then you've got to do it by committee and hope you get the right players, playing the right way so that you get pressure."
As Jones said, the Cowboys do not have the guy. They don't have that 20-sack sort of player. Instead, the Cowboys are going to have a bunch of players across the defensive line who can get after the quarterback. With this influx of both defensive ends and defensive tackles, the Cowboys can get extremely creative with what they want to do upfront. There is a high probability they work in each defensive lineman in waves, that way to keep everyone fresh and to give each player breaks that they will need.
A few weeks ago, it seemed like the Cowboys would hold off on the running back position until the draft. But because free agency didn't exactly go as planned, missing out on Eric Weddle at safety and Adrian Clayborne at defensive end, the Cowboys' offseason plan seemed to change. Because of that, Alfred Morris was brought in to be a part of the team's committee. With the addition of Morris, the Cowboys might pass on the running back position at least until later in the draft.
Morris' numbers have decreased each year since his rookie season, but coming to Dallas should change that. With the offensive line and the more balanced offense, where he won't have to deal with multiple play-callers, Morris will benefit tremendously. A committee consisting of Morris, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar gives the Cowboys options in zone-blocking runs, man-blocking runs, and on third downs. Despite the addition of Morris, I don't rule out the Cowboys drafting Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott at all.