Free agency officially opens on March 9th at 4:00 PM, but we all know that the Cowboys front office believes that talent acquisition is a 365 day a year process. It is safe to say that a significant portion of the offseason has been spent in preparing the strategy the team will use during the opening hours of the annual bidding war.
In recent seasons, Dallas has played the free agency period as a chance to steal bargains that can add depth to the roster rather than as a tool to build front line talent. It would be easy to presume that this trend will continue except for one thing. Dallas now finds itself in similar circumstances to when Jerry Jones went out and signed Charles Haley to be the piece that brought everything together. Might the team feel that this year is the time to go all in on the next Haley?
If they do feel that the time is right, who would the Cowboys go after?
The pass rush has been an area of opportunity for the team over the past several seasons, so this would be an obvious area to address. It is also a position that can be considered ‘serviceable’ as it is right now. Tyrone Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence may not be game changers at defensive end, but when paired with David Irving and Benson Mayowa they do give the team enough to be competitive. Don’t forget that Charles Tapper will be in the mix as well. It is not likely that Dallas will go for a short-term rental, especially considering the cost of a game-changing pass rusher.
I expect that the needs at this position will be addressed during the draft
Instead, if the Cowboys do intend to make a bold move during free agency it will be at the defensive back position. Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne will both be testing their worth on the open market, and I expect that Dallas will be looking to upgrade at least one of those slots. Orlando Scandrick will lock down one corner and Anthony Brown has shown a lot of promise, but since you can never have enough corners, look for Dallas to shop around.
Safety is also an opportunity for the team to improve immediately. Byron Jones will be back, but both Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox have contracts expiring. The team believes that Jeff Heath has developed enough to contribute to the effort, but they may be willing to hedge that bet with a veteran who brings more experience to the table.
Texans corner A. J. Bouye is one player on the rise who could come in and give a boost to the Dallas defense, although he will not come cheap. A former UDFA out of college, he experienced a breakout season in 2016 and he will draw attention from several teams. At safety, both Arizona Cardinals safeties, Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger, are looking for new contracts and the Red Birds will likely only be able to sign one of the pair. Swearinger is the likely prospect, so Jefferson will be looking for a new home.
There will be opportunities for Dallas to get better on the back end through free agency. Solving some secondary issues with short-term answers will allow the team to focus up front in the draft. Once that situation is resolved for the long haul, then the Cowboys can devote future efforts at a more lasting solution in the secondary.