Over the next month, there will be several discussions involving free agency and the draft and how the Cowboys should use each to acquire the players they need to help improve their team. And the one position that gets the most attention around the water cooler is defensive end. The team just doesn’t have the tools to get the job done and are in need of a serious boost at this position. Currently, there is nobody on the roster that gives people any hope that the team will take a step forward in improving the pass rush in 2017.
While the front office has shown the propensity to take the conservative approach with free agent spending, it doesn’t stop some of us from wondering. Wondering if the team has enough cap space? Wondering if big spending in free agency is too risky? And wondering if it even makes sense to go that route with a draft filled with great edge rushing prospects? There are some compelling arguments to be made both ways.
To examine the pros and cons of going after a free agent pass rusher, I’ve sequestered the help of my alter ego, the Phantom Menace, to help evaluate this situation.
Question #1 – Do the Cowboys have enough money?
Danny Phantom: Absolutely. There are a slew of money-saving moves the Cowboys can choose to free up cap space. Travis Frederick’s contract will be restructured to push some of his $14 million base salary into bonus money. That by itself, saves a great deal of cap space. Tony Romo’s departure will result in either $5 or $12 million in savings depending on whether or not he’s designated a June 1st cut. And Doug Free’s $5 million base is too much to absorb. Working a pay cut would be in the best interest of both sides.
These moves alone could save the Cowboys over $25 million in cap space in 2017 and this doesn’t even include many of the other contracts they could tweak to free up more space. The front office doesn’t have to be reckless with pushing out a bunch of contracts in order to free up the space they need.
Phantom Menace: Do you think money grows on trees? All this money you are wanting the Cowboys to finagle is going to have to be accounted for eventually. This team has done a great job making responsible financial decisions and just because they can create extra cap space doesn’t mean they should. As well as they’ve been drafting, it’s going to take a lot of money to give these players second contracts. How about they keep some of that cash for players that are proven commodities rather than overpriced free agents?
Question #2 – Isn’t it risky to spend that much on a free agent pass rusher?
Danny: In most cases, this is a sentiment that I would agree with whole-heartedly. But when it comes to pass rushers, it’s not that big of a concern. They are one of the more reliable investments. They produce. And while it’s reasonable to expect a team to not get full value on their price, this is a hit that the team should consider taking in order to immediately get high caliber production at this position. That’s not to say go crazy and hand out Olivier Vernon type money, but bite the bullet and get a difference maker.
Menace: How about you hand me a twenty and I’ll immediately give you 14 bucks back. Which one of us is happy? If you already know it’s a bad investment, then that’s a good indication you shouldn’t do it. When is the last time the Cowboys spent a lot of money on a free agent player that panned out? There is a reason why Stephen Jones isn’t thrilled about this idea and that’s because they’ve been burned before.
People praise the Cowboys front office about how they go about things, yet they’ll quickly get sidetracked and their eyes get real big over some shiny new free agent. It’s as if they’ve completely forgotten all those terrible past mistakes that have mangled the Cowboys chances to legitimately compete. Don’t. Overspend. For. Free. Agents. Good riddance, dead money. Let’s stay focused, people!
Question #3 – Why resort to free agency when the draft is so deep with pass rushers?
Danny: The Cowboys will get in on the great draft class of defensive linemen. That’s a foregone conclusion. But there is no guarantee that it will come with pick 28. The Cowboys try to draft pure. It’s just what they do. In no way, shape, or form will they select a pass rusher if he is not the best player they have on their board. The draft is about collecting great players…as many as they can. Sure, in a perfect world the stars would align and best-player-available would match need. But pass rush has been an ongoing need for several drafts and yet they continue to not draft a defensive end. And it’s this discipline that has allowed them to draft so many All Pro players.
If the Cowboys use free agency to fill voids so they draft as pure as possible, then that would mean filling that gaping hole at DE.
If one of the elite cornerbacks like Sidney Jones slides - do you really want to the Cowboys to pass them up? Or maybe his teammate, star wide-out John Ross is still there? It may seem blasphemous to take yet again, another offensive player, but do you just brush aside such an explosive player just because he doesn’t help your defense? The first round is for stars.
Menace: If the Cowboys take an offensive player in the first round of the draft, I will put my head in the oven and set it to broil. This is a completely infuriating notion and you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting it. Last time I checked, there’s only one ball to go around. How many stars on offense do they need?
This absolutely has to be a defensive draft with a heavy emphasis on the defensive line. For the first time in a long time, the Cowboys will be able to address their pass-rushing need in the first round of the draft. It’s such a special class and they cannot pass up this opportunity to get a young player that will be such a breath of fresh air to their defense.
If the Cowboys pass up a pass rusher in the first round of this draft, I will be fully convinced that they are refusing to take this situation seriously. It’s like someone bet Rod Marinelli that he couldn’t win with a bunch of “orphans” and he is hell-bent on proving them wrong.
In conclusion, there’s a lot to think about here. While the Cowboys show a lot of discipline and do a great job sticking to their plan, their process isn’t set in stone. They evaluate each situation differently and will take in several factors before coming to a decision. So, if fans really want to figure out what the front office is going to do, it helps to have an open mind.