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Cowboys 2017 Free Agency: Three Thoughts About This Weekend’s Activities

The first weekend of free agency has completed. Here are three thoughts about recent events and how they affect the Cowboys.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has happened over the last few days as the first weekend of free agency has come to an end. We’ve seen a slew of players signed, a veteran tackle retire, and a draft prospect’s 2017 season come to an abrupt end. What’s been heavily on your mind after the weekend of craziness? Here are three thoughts from this weekend’s action.

Disciplined Spending

With all the activity , the Cowboys are doing exactly what everyone expected them to do. The front office is showing once again that they intend to use free agency to fill voids and will look for low cost investments. Many of their own free agents have signed on with other teams and while it’s disappointing to lose these players, the size of their contracts make it understandable why the team didn’t re-sign them. Instead, the Cowboys are finding players in free agency that are affordable, allowing them to keep money in the bank for the high quality players they draft.

How do you like the Cowboys free agent moves so far? Here is my quick assessment of each one.

Moves I Love:

Favorite Move - The Return of TWilly

The Cowboys offense was one of the more explosive groups in the NFL last season, ranking top five in both points scored and yards gained. It is a refreshing feeling that they will have all their weapons in tact for next season. Terrance Williams is a great fit for the team. He blocks well, he’s a deep threat, and let’s not forget all those toe-tapping big catches he has had for the Cowboys.

Most people had Williams priced out of Dallas. And after seeing what Kenny Britt (average annual salary of $8.1 M), Kenny Stills ($8.0 M), and Robert Woods ($7.8 M) got paid, Williams seemed to be in line for a healthy deal. As discussed last week, it looked like Williams’ days in Dallas was nearing an end.

Fish has TWilly getting one of those bigger deals and priced out of Dallas. I’m not in agreement with him on the size of the contract (I’m guessing a five-year, $26M deal), however, this price will still be too rich for the Cowboys. It will be close though. The front office will make a serious effort to keep him because his deep threat ability and contributions in the blocking game fit extremely well within the offense.

Williams signed a four-year, $17 M deal. This is a great bargain for the Cowboys. The team gets to keep a key offensive piece without having to overspend for his services.

Stephen Paea

The Cowboys replaced one bridge defensive tackle with another. The Washington Redskins gave Paea a four-year, $21 M deal a couple years ago, but cut him after just one season. That’s a little pricey for Paea, but the Cowboys get him on a one-year rental for just $2 M. This is great value for what you get in Paea. He’s not a big playmaker, but he’ll be strong on the depth chart allowing the Cowboys to not have to resort to a potential liability at the position like they’ve had in season’s past. It was a nightmare when players like Nick Hayden, Ken Bishop, and a slew of no-namers logged a significant amount of snaps prior to last year. The Cowboys upgraded this position last season and a beefed up interior line provided immediate dividends as the team had the top run stopping defense in the league.

While the Redskins keep overpaying for defensive tackles (Jason Hatcher, Paea, and now Terrell McClain), the Cowboys keep finding them cheap. This is a great signing.

Moves I’m Indifferent About:

Nolan Carroll

We’ve all seen plenty of tape on Carroll over the last three seasons during his time with the Eagles. Last year, Dez Bryant made him look like burnt toast.

But that’s Dez for you. He does that to a lot of corners. You can’t judge him based on that. Of course, Carroll is already a part of Cowboys’ history, as in - Tony Romo’s last touchdown pass.

But those two plays aren’t indicative to Carroll’s performance as a whole. Carroll is a not a great player, but he’s solid. The Cowboys liked him last offseason and they still like him. Again, he’s not the answer the team is looking for at the cornerback position, but he’s stable for a depth guy.

His contract makes it really easy to get out of if he turns out to be a burden on the defense. He’ll only be a $2 M cap hit this season and if he struggles, he can be a cut with only a $2 M dead money hit next season. From a contract perspective, the risk is low and that it makes him a good signing. But the bigger question becomes is he good enough of a player to fill the void or does it leave more work for the team to do in free agency.

Bringing either Brandon Carr or Morris Claiborne back as well would make the Carroll signing much more ingenious.

Brice Butler

One-year, $1.1 M deal...whatever. Butler is fine for his role. The meat of this deal is the $300k that he’s guaranteed, which is his signing bonus. This means if the Cowboys draft a WR that they like more than Butler, they can cut him with a minimal dead money hit. This signing serves as an insurance policy and gives the team, at the very least, a solid #4 WR.

Moves I Don’t Like:

Damontre Moore

Last week I wrote a piece that identified five low cost pass rushers where I went through a process of elimination to help identify some players the Cowboys might target in free agency. Moore had made it through all the cuts except for the final one when he was removed from consideration due to his red-flag character concerns. The Cowboys decided that wouldn’t be a criteria for signing him. He won’t cost the team very much money which could be an incentive for him to try to avoid shelling out any more bail money.

Sure, it’s a low-risk move, but until he proves otherwise, he’s a problem child. He’s had issues with teammates, drove while intoxicated/suspended license, and was arrested for marijuana in college. He has a history of poor judgment so he’s not someone I would get very excited about.

Jerry wants a war daddy, but instead he get a jail birdy.

Footloose And Fancy Free

Well, Doug E. Fresh pulled one over on us. He’s bouncing. Technically, it wasn’t a surprise as he’s been toying with this idea during the off-season. I guess we now all know he was serious. With the news of Doug Free retiring, the Cowboys now are left with finding a new right tackle. The Cowboys invested a third-round pick in Florida’s Chaz Green in 2015 to take over the new swing tackle position left vacant by Jeremy Parnell’s departure. Green played well for an ailing Tyron Smith last year, but continues to have injury problems of his own. Can he be relied on to be a 16-game starter? That seems a little risky.

Behind Green, the Cowboys have Emmett Cleary at RT. That’s unsettling. This now becomes a position that the team has had to address going forward. How will they approach this?

Some fans are talking about using their guard depth and shift La’el Collins to right tackle. Dallas has Joe Looney on the roster and could choose to re-sign Jonathan Cooper to allow Collins to shift over. Then there’s always the draft, but as our own Michael Sisemore pointed out - this year’s class isn’t overloaded with quality along the offensive line, especially at the tackle position.

So that leaves free agency. Like they do with everything else, the Cowboys could simply look to sign a low-cost free agent to fill the void. Speaking of costs, Free’s retirement opens up $5 M in cap space for the Cowboys.

Sidney Jones Injury

The cornerback from Washington was touted to be a possible candidate for the Cowboys first round selection at pick 28. But that is no more. The young prospect tore his Achilles during his Pro Day workout on Saturday.

His draft stock will certainly plummet now. It’s a tough break for a kid that was approaching the beginning of a promising career. It’s also a costly one in terms of money. Jones was looking at a rooking contract that was going to be worth about $10 million guaranteed and now with him likely to fall somewhere in the late second or third round, he’s looking at a $3 to $4 M deal.

While Jones is now out of the mix for the Cowboy to select with pick 28, he now has fans thinking the team would roll the dice on him in subsequent rounds. The Cowboys love to get great players for a good price and an Achilles injuries can take a player out for a full year, but offer up a fully healthy player once they return. Is he worth a second round pick? Third maybe?

Those are my thoughts regarding the news over the weekend. What about you? What events have caught your attention?

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