Once upon a time in an age of no salary caps, the Dallas Cowboys were allowed to go after any free agent they wanted. They made some key signings in the 1990’s that sent them over the hump and into three championships in four seasons. They signed legendary starters like Charles Haley and Deion Sanders. Those days are long gone and the Cowboys have changed their approach.
Throughout last offseason and this one, there has been an outcry for the Dallas Cowboys to go after a difference-maker on defense. Dallas has chosen to remain dedicated to their new process. That process dictates that free agency is fool’s gold for the most part. They don't make big offers for big players because this team much prefers to build through the draft. They’re not keen on paying other team’s homegrown talents.
Let’s pretend for a moment that the Cowboys’ were going to go after at least one premium talent via free agency. Instead of searching the bargain bins for another George Selvie or Jack Crawford, this time, Dallas was going to make a play for a guy of more than middling talent. A player that immediately makes them better after they sign him is not all that farfetched.
Imagine that Stephen Jones and Will McClay get together and decide, let’s make a run for someone that can truly help the defense take a giant footstep forward into becoming a championship-caliber team. Looking at the scope of free agency, who would be the player of choice that you would want immediately and be excited about?
Here’s one choice:
DE Melvin Ingram, 28, 6’2, 265 lbs, Chargers
Now in his fifth season, the defensive end was drafted by the San Diego Chargers with the 18th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. He was a former linebacker from the University of South Carolina, who led the Gamecocks with 10 sacks in 2011, also tallying 15 tackles for loss, two interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns.
In his rookie campaign, Ingram racked up 18 quarterback pressures which was second on the team. He was able to play in all 16 games that season and starting two of those contests. Though he only had one sack, he managed to have 41 tackles and a forced fumble.
Tragedy struck in just his second season as a pro when he tore his ACL in OTA’s and was placed on PUP. Miraculously, he was activated off PUP later in December and played four games. He was able to record his second sack against the Oakland Raiders in week 16 where he stripped Matt McGloin. He also made a postseason appearance against the Cincinnati Bengals, where he intercepted Andy Dalton.
The following season, Ingram would start nine games and record 29 tackles, four sacks, and two forced fumbles. In 2015, he would have his breakout campaign with 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and 65 tackles while starting 16 games. Again in 2016, Ingram would have eight sacks, 60 tackles, and four more forced fumbles to his credit as the San Diego Chargers vastly improved on defense.
With the team set to make a move to LA and the future of their players not exactly sewn up, what’s to stop Ingram from looking for another home? There is no doubt that there is a premium for a good pass rusher. Teams will spend all kinds of money to find one. History shows that it takes a while for a rookie rusher to catch on, it took a few seasons for Ingram to find his way.
If the Cowboys are going to become a next-level team, they need to find next-level talents to contribute. For my money, the Cowboys should go after someone like Melvin Ingram. It wouldn’t hinder them from taking a pass rusher in this year’s draft but boy would it ever be a statement.
So, we leave the question to you, who would be the one guy you would chase after in free agency and make him a Cowboy?