The Dallas Cowboys are often the epicenter of buzz for the NFL. This year is no different. They are coming off a hugely successful season with the NFL’s leading rusher, rookie of the year, and an offensive line group so good they made up a new award for them ... with all but one of those players 26 or younger. Then there’s Tony Romo - a lightning rod of discussion at all times and now about to be the next Peyton Manning/Brett Favre quarterback migration story.
Yet as all the rumors swirl, the Cowboys sit in the eye of the storm and wait.
When a player figures out the subtleties of their game, we often describe it as "learning to let the game come to you." I can think of no better description for what the Cowboys are doing with this off season.
Apart from a couple of built-in triggers to get under the salary cap, the Cowboys have done nothing this off season, not even secure the exclusive-rights contract of David Irving. As far as we know they haven’t even discussed the return of free agents beyond the season exit interviews. Yet look at the lists:
Brice Butler, Brandon Carr, Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, Jack Crawford, Gavin Escobar, David Irving, Ronald Leary, Terrell McClain, Darren McFadden, J.J. Wilcox, and Terrance Williams all started games for Dallas last year. Lance Dunbar, Justin Durant, Andrew Gachkar, Kellen Moore, and Mark Sanchez all played a role in Dallas’s season as well, even though Moore went down before the season and Sanchez was a late comer.
Yet none of those players has been extended. As I said, not even the obvious move of tendering $615,000 to keep the services of David Irving has happened yet. And there’s no reason for it to. The offseason, like the rest of the year, is a process around here, and there’s no reason to rush. Dallas is clearly letting the markets be set so they can negotiate from a position of knowledge rather than running out and setting the markets themselves and possibly overpaying.
Contrasting that to years past when extravagant trades (Roy Williams, Morris Claiborne) and high-priced free agent signings (Terrell Owens, Brandon Carr) were the order of the day is truly eye opening. The temptation is to say "Dallas is one player away" and go get a pass rush specialist, come hell or high water. But the restoration of order in the Dallas front office has largely been about the realization that the key is building the team and making it better across the board.... not sacrificing too much for the moment, but being prepared to face any moment with the best version of a team you can create. Strengthening strengths as well as shoring up weakness.
Stephen Jones on Tuesday his general philosophy on free agency: pic.twitter.com/EhIiQRjRjN— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) March 1, 2017
So don’t be surprised if you see any of those guys come back. Or leave. Or Dallas draft a replacement for them. Or not. Or if the first-round pick is a pass rusher, or a wide receiver.
This front office has leaned to wait for the game to come to them, and when it’s their turn to strike, look for them to do what they think is best for the team. And there’s a lot of evidence now to suggest they know better than we do. You know - kind of like when they spent the fourth overall draft pick on a running back last year and everyone panned them for it.
Patience is a virtue.