What we know about the Dallas Cowboys is that they have opted to not get involved in bidding wars to find talent in the first few days of free agency. It's a very smart move as my colleague, Tom, has outlined before. Especially seeing as how the salary cap has jumped to over $155 million, some teams are going to be more active than others. I have no issue with the Cowboys taking that wait-and-see approach the past few years. Of course, players want to make every last dollar they can and it is well within their rights to do so, you could argue that they deserve it in this grueling sport. It plays into the Cowboys' hands to give pause because players will certainly lower their prices when there is no interest buzzing around them after a week's time.
On the other hand, the Cowboys still must be somewhat aggressive in this offseason. If the public is to believe the emphatic words of Jerry Jones and his "win-now" demeanor, then the Cowboys have some work to do. This isn't a team that is closer to another 12-4 campaign as some may want to believe. It's closer to a middle of the road team and they need a few upgrades here and there to get it right. They can't just bring in bodies, they need to bring in some real talent. They shouldn't break the bank, but this year the Cowboys should consider spending a little more than usual.
Quantifying The Value of Brandon Carr
This has been discussed over and over again but here's the skinny. If the Cowboys decided to cut Brandon Carr right now, they can gain some cap relief but will be on the hook for $7.434 million in dead money. That simply won't do. However, they should consider designating him a post-June 1 cut, that way they can allocate the $4.7 million in dead money this year and only $2.7 million next year.
There really shouldn't be much discussion here about the reasons to cut him. He hasn't produced a single turnover in two seasons. He has become posterized by some receivers in the NFL. Sure, he's a good teammate and an even better person off the field, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's earned his spot. PFF graded him as the 73rd ranked cornerback in the NFL with a 54.7 in 2015. At some point, no offense to Nick Eatman, if you are not producing, who care's that you've started every single game? The NFL is a bottom-line business, time to find someone who can help them win those games.
Solution: If you cut Carr, you have to replace him with an adequate solution that can produce. Might I suggest, 26-year old Casey Hayward? The former Packer took the NFL landscape by storm in his rookie season giving up the lowest passer rating for all corners (31.1) and snagging six interceptions. After he suffered an injury in his second year, he came back strong but was already displaced by Sam Shields and Davon House. In 2015, Hayward regained his form and graded very highly by PFF standards with an 82.7 in 2015. He's going to take a backseat to Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall, which means he'll be semi-affordable.
A Pass Rushing Epidemic
The Cowboys have a serious need along the defensive line that can only be addressed by using both free agency and the draft. They are just not very good at rushing the passer and throwing a bunch of bodies at the issue will not produce results. Rod Marinelli likes to have his "rushmen" come in numbers but if those numbers don't have talent, what do you expect? The NFL draft has shown that taking pass rush specialists early in the draft usually doesn't translate to sacks and production immediately. What the Cowboys need is some immediate help and if they don't get it, expect more of the same in 2016. Having a defense that can get off the field on third down would really help out the offense. Dallas has been anemic at taking down opposing quarterbacks having gone five years since they were even in the Top-10 discussion. 31 sacks are not good, pressure counts but not enough.
Solution: Playing the waiting game here will hopefully find some talent that has fallen through the cracks in the initial spending burst. Out of the group of "name players" like Charles Johnson, Robert Ayers, Mario Williams, among others, maybe one will be overlooked and can be had at a deflated price. Adrian Clayborn could be another option, he was someone we talked about last season. This is a position where they need to consider adding a tackle upgrade over Nick Hayden and a guy or two to help cover the loss of Greg Hardy. Production is a must here and so is penetration. They can't keep swinging and missing because teams like the Broncos, Cardinals, and the Seahawks know it's all about rushing the passer. This is a place where they have to add options and look at the draft. The cupboard is too bare at this point.
A Veteran Quarterback With Realistic Expectations
Sorry but not sorry, Kellen Moore is not your man. The Cowboys need someone that can really take advantage of all the weapons in this offense. Any backup is going to have some limitations but the Cowboys can't look at Moore as a guy that can get the job done. He just doesn't have the arm talent to start significant time though the Cowboys tested that theory. This isn't a quarterback class with a lot of glitz and glamour, but a quality insurance policy can still be had.
Solution: Colt McCoy is a crafty but smart veteran that has had success and could certainly run the offense that Scott Linehan likes. Enough with talk of Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles, those options are too expensive and both will likely want to have a shot at starting. The only starting quarterback-caliber players that actually choose to sit are guys like Kyle Orton. If they love the game, they want to play the game. Drew Stanton and Chase Daniel other options to consider that should be somewhat affordable. If the Cowboys draft a quarterback this year or not (they will), they will still need someone capable of starting right away. A veteran like McCoy makes perfect sense while they groom one behind Tony Romo.