John Elway had built his team primarily off of spending big. He acquired Peyton Manning, DeMarcus Ware (whimpers), Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders among others that helped earn them a title. Of course they did draft Von Miller.
The Dallas Cowboys haven’t traditionally been a team that takes those types of shots (we’re talking current day, not your 90s teams). They believe in building through the draft and developing your own.
This is a great idea, and it’s worked for teams, see the Green Bay Packers. Breaking news here though, the Cowboys aren’t the Packers. The second round has seen plenty of failure. You can’t solely depend on the draft if you whiff on big picks.
On Sunday we saw the Philadelphia Eagles punch their ticket to Super Bowl LII. They did this with a starting quarterback (Nick Foles), starting receivers (Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith), and a big-contributing running back (LeGarrette Blount) that they brought in via free agency last offseason. This doesn’t even include pass rusher Chris Long or running back Jay Ajayi who they traded for mid-season.
Eagles veteran additions this past offseason— Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) January 22, 2018
SIGNED: Nick Foles, LeGarrette Blount, Alshon Jeffrey, Torrey Smith, Stefen Wisneiwski, Chance Warmack, Chris Long & Corey Graham
TRADE: Timmy Jernigan, Ronald Darby, Jay Ajayi
Wonder if any of those guys made an impact...
The Eagles basically re-tooled their skill positions on offense, and tricked out their defense, in one fell swoop of an offseason. Is this a flawless strategy that 31 other teams should adopt? Of course not, but free agency certainly has benefits, and the Cowboys are reluctant to try and capitalize on them.
To say the Cowboys shopped in the bargain bin last offseason would be to put it kindly. Dallas brought in players like Stephen Paea, Nolan Carroll, Damontre Moore, and Byron Bell. The first three, the biggest, wouldn’t even survive the season with the team, and one was because the player retired (Paea).
Stephen Jones once infamously referred to free agency as not a great way to build a football team, the 2017 Eagles (among others) serve as contradictions to that philosophy.
Stephen Jones on Tuesday his general philosophy on free agency: pic.twitter.com/EhIiQRjRjN— Rob Phillips (@robphillips3) March 1, 2017
In no way is it wise to suggest the Cowboys completely shift philosophies 180 degrees and adopt an all-in approach to free agency as the method to build their football team, but embracing some of free agency could be a wise move.
It’s understandable for anyone in an NFL front office to favor the draft over paying players big-time contracts, but to be so close-minded to the latter leads to free agency disasters like the Cowboys are having while other teams reap the benefit of rolling the dice.
And that’s the other thing. You can have a cold approach to free agency if you’re constantly churning out gold stars with your draft picks. The Cowboys have done well for the most part in drafting recently, but the second round has been a huge issue. The second round is a very important pick, if you missed there it can put your team behind.
Philadelphia isn’t the first team to reach the Super Bowl off of big free agency moves. They aren’t innovators, they’re merely open to all ideas, the mark of legitimate front offices. They saw opportunities, rolled the dice, and they hit on their investments.
The Eagles won’t be the last team to hit on this particular philosophy, but it does feel like the Cowboys need to join the club or they won’t hit on any.