Over the past several weeks since free agency began, we have watched as the Cowboys lost personnel from their 2016 13-3 campaign. As many of the media members and the fans have spent a lot of time overreacting to these departures, others have tried to urge calm, that a plan is in place. [Ed. Note: this pargraph has been edited to note there are a variety of opinions on the Cowboys moves on the BTB staff.]
Now, Stephen Jones has pretty much laid out his plan. Not a single player who departed is irreplaceable going forward for the Dallas Cowboys. There is certainly a plan in place and Jones addressed that when speaking to the media at the owner’s meetings out in Arizona:
“People say our biggest issue and the thing that keeps us from winning a championship is the lack of (defense),” Jones said. “We didn’t have the players to be a great defense.”
He’s certainly on the money right there. Their last two best seasons, 2014 and 2016, were both marred by the same problem - lack of defense. As well as the Cowboys’ defense played last year at times, it hasn’t been good enough for the playoffs and that was the death sentence for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. On 3rd and 20, the Cowboys couldn’t keep Aaron Rodgers from getting the first down. It was time to move on because Dallas has pieces to build around.
They have the All-Pro linebacker Sean Lee, they have the grizzled feisty veteran in Orlando Scandrick. They have a potential standout free safety in Byron Jones. they have young guys like Maliek Collins, David Irving, and Anthony Brown. Now, they need to add more defensive talent. Stephen Jones has a plan for that too:
“Hopefully we can address that (in the draft). Now I am not going to say we are going to sit here and pick for need. But I will say before we started free agency we took a snapshot of the draft and knew that it was deep in the defensive line, deep in the secondary. We knew that was the ability to really improve ourselves there.”
The Cowboys see an opportunity to improve this team in ways that were perhaps harder to do in recent past. The depth in this class is going to open the door to a whole slew of new faces for the Cowboys moving forward. It’s hard to watch the Cowboys lose five guys on defense that started seven or more games. You can recognize the contributions a lot of those players made without rewarding them for mediocrity.
"Players we want to keep, we keep them,'' Jones declared. "Most of these players, I'm not going to single out guys, but most of them we were ready to let move on.
"Now, there were a few if they would have been for the right price, we would have done it. But we certainly didn't want to get into overpaying for anybody.''
It’s time for the Cowboys to get better on defense and they feel they have made some moves this offseason to do so. We have laid out here for you that though the Cowboys lost a guy like Terrell McClain, they gained a quality player in Stephen Paea. Paea not only fits the scheme like a glove, he’s got 17 more games played, 35 more tackles, and almost 10 more career sacks than McClain with their careers starting on the same day.
Bryan Broaddus told us that they believe that Nolan Carroll is more athletic and therefore more apt to make plays on the ball than the departed Brandon Carr. As good a locker room guy and teammate he was, Carr had one interception in the past three seasons. He doesn’t make plays and Stephen Jones is tired of watching his team get held back by a “close but no cigar” defense.
“We are not going to get any better on defense if we just keep paying the guys we got,” Jones said. “What we have to do better on defense is we have to get pressure on the passer. And we have to make plays on the ball. We have to do that better."
That above comment by Stephen Jones is the epitome of hitting the nail on the head as far as we’re concerned. With all these other teams in the division making moves to their offensive firepower, the Cowboys have already done that. What they are looking to do is keep up defensively because they’ve been behind the ball in that category.
As Stephen said, they keep the guys they want and none of those guys that departed were worth keeping at what they were paid to go somewhere else. The Cowboys got better in free agency by making sound signings with Paea, Carroll, re-signing Terrance Williams and recently signing Byron Bell. They got better in free agency by letting guys walk out the door and not being tempted to pay them more than their worth. It’s the moves that “weren’t made” that make all the difference here. Now, the Dallas Cowboys can follow their path to success which is reloading in the NFL Draft.