The dead period is upon us but for the majority of Cowboys' fans, it seems like it's been an eternity since we've seen any football. As the Cowboys closed out their mandatory minicamp as well as their 30+ year stay at Valley Ranch, we have another five weeks before the Cowboys report to Oxnard, California for training camp.
It's been a long offseason that started right about the time Tony Romo injured his collarbone for the second time and ruined all of our Thanksgivings. We've seen the front office's approach to the offseason, some questions have been answered, some haven't been, and other questions have been raised as a result. Before we move forward, it's important to look back. So, we ask if given all the information you know now, how would you have changed the Cowboys' dealings this offseason?
It can literally be any move that was made throughout the NFL landscape. Maybe it was a free agent that you thought the Cowboys' should have easily done that deal. It could be a draft pick that you wish they would have considered. Just about anything that you could think of can apply here. All that we ask is that it makes sense. I'll give three examples that I would have thought made sense for the Cowboys' and I'll rank them by importance.
1.) Sign DE Robert Ayers to three-year deal worth $21M, $10.5M guaranteed, $7M per year AVG
Knowing what we know now, the Cowboys still have serious question marks surrounding their defensive line and they keep telling us they're going to be fine. The Cowboys have seemingly stretched themselves a little thin at edge rusher and should have done more to address the issue. Whether or not we believe that any one of these young guys could prove to be something better, the fact remains that not a single pass rusher on this team has 10 career sacks or more.
Robert Ayers was a bargain for the New York Giants and he turned that into a modest deal with the Tampa Bay Buccanneers. His three-year $21 million dollar deal would have been welcome on this team, too. At 31, he's still producing at a highly-productive level, having his best year last season with 9.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. The Cowboys as we know them would easily accept that kind of effort. Ayers has had 14.5 sacks in two seasons with the Giants. He wasn't a prized free agent by any means that would require some huge price tag, at $7 million per season, that could have easily been worth the squeeze.
Right now, we're not sure what the Cowboys' true plan is along the defensive line but it is hard to visualize it being much better than what we've been accustomed to over the past few seasons. Maybe they believe that any free agent may be a stop-gap in the developing Randy Gregory or DeMarcus Lawrence. However, the best ability is availability and both of those guys could miss the first quarter of the season. This low-risk, potentially high-reward deal would have been atop my list.
2.) Draft DE Noah Spence At 34th Overall
Again, looking at the defensive line we knew that they liked Emmanuel Ogbah and Kevin Dodd. Coincidentally, both players were selected in the top two picks of the second round, Dallas pulled the trigger on Jaylon Smith, a supremely talented linebacker that's waiting for his nerve to re-fire so he can reach his potential. As good a player as Smith may become, he'll have to be every bit worth the wait in 2017 for this not to keep creeping up. Bryan Broaddus has been pretty critical of the pick with Noah Spence still left on the board.
What we know about Spence is that he's been called the best pure pass rushing talent in the class. With his shady past, they could have very well been scared to take another risk there. However, even if Spence is a situational pass rusher in his rookie year, it would have helped the team get better on defense. Maybe Spence could even push one of Gregory or Lawrence in the seasons that follow. At times, it almost feels as if the Cowboys have been too cute with what they are doing on the defensive line. I would argue that Spence is way past his transgressions where there is still much room to grow for Gregory.
Going after a restricted free agent like Benson Mayowa is great if it works out, but the reality is that he's still very green as far as NFL exposure. The Cowboys have some very high potential surrounding multiple players but none has done much as NFL players. Rome wasn't built in a day and they have to start somewhere but this is a unit that no offensive coordinator looks at and says "watch out for this guy." Maybe they prove us all wrong.
3.) Sign CB Casey Hayward to three-year, $15.3M, $5.1M per year AVG
As the free agency process began, I was a huge fan of grabbing a cornerback with the versatility that Hayward has. In his rookie season, he exploded onto the scene with six interceptions and having the lowest opposing passer rating of 31.1. He got banged up in his second season and was thwarted in his third by Davon House and Sam Shields. However, he had a rebound year last season and played really well in the slot. Hayward could have been a valuable piece to the Cowboys' defense in 2016.
Dallas has been looking for an upgrade but has been turned away at every corner, pun so intended. They re-signed Morris Claiborne and reached a reduced salary agreement with Brandon Carr. Still, the Cowboys have been interested in the cornerback market having spoken with Brandon Boykin recently. Like the defensive line, there are some questions surrounding this bunch too.
Orlando Scandrick, their best cornerback, is recovering from a torn ACL and PCL from last training camp. Claiborne and Carr have been discussed this offseason as potential redemption candidates. The facts are that Mo' has only proven to be a serviceable cornerback in the NFL after being selected sixth-overall in the 2012 Draft. Carr hasn't had a single takeaway in two seasons. If both those guys can step us that surely they will feel pretty good about what they have. However, what they have hasn't cut the mustard as of late and there is no overwhelming evidence that it ever will, though I have been rather optimistic recently with what we've been hearing out of practices with no pads.
What move would you have made?