There are definitely things to be proud of during the Jason Garrett era of the Dallas Cowboys, and how they’ve drafted in the first round is high atop that list.
Dallas has landed Tyron Smith, Morris Claiborne (it got nice at the end), Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Byron Jones, Ezekiel Elliott, Taco Charlton, and now Leighton Vander Esch in the first round over the last eight years. The four that can were all given second contracts with the team, although obviously Mo Claiborne’s was of the one-year variety.
What’s more is the Cowboys already picked up Byron Jones’ fifth-year option and will very likely do with Zeke come the offseason (unbelievable how time flies). You can practically bet your bottom dollar on the Cowboys finding elite talent in the first round, utilizing it well, and then paying them another handful of bottom dollars after their rookie contracts are up.
This is an idea that Stephen Jones touched on during his appearance on the Rapsheet and Friends podcast with NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Jump to the 10:50 mark to get straight to Stephen.
“You want to pay your own guys”
Rapoport asked Jones whether or not over his long tenure with the Cowboys if he had a favorite draft pick. Stephen’s answer helped reaffirm the Cowboys’ love for their first-rounders and how they want to pay their own.
Well that’s difficult. That’s so hard because we’ve had so many great players. Whether it be a Troy Aikman, whether it be an Emmitt Smith, whether... we didn’t draft Michael, but we love those guys. Then you get into the DeMarcus Wares of the world. There’s just been so many guys, Larry Allen, you get him in the second-round. He wasn’t a draft pick, but your all-time college free agent has to be a Tony Romo. It’s very tough to pick and choose in terms of who your favorites are.
I do know this, this day and time it’s more important than ever that you have success in the draft, I think, to ultimately have success. That’s why I’m so fired up bout this football team. We’re young, we’ve had an extended amount of success with our number one draft picks being able to play, and play early and often. I think ultimately that helps you. You know what you’re paying when you get into their second contract, you’ve lived with them, you want to pay your own guys.
Stephen Jones prefers paying his own players over outside free agents and to be honest there’s logic to his thought process. You obviously know your own player coming off his rookie deal better than you’d know any other, but the point remains that sometimes you have to be willing to add outside talent.
In a perfect world the Cowboys would continue to draft blue-chip prospects in every single round and would never need to acquire free agents from anywhere else so that they could completely maximize and exploit the rookie pay scale in the NFL. The reality is that this simply can’t be done, and while the Cowboys are definitely one of the teams who’s had success in the first-round year in and year out, there are other rounds to the draft. It’s about more than the very first card you turn in, not saying Stephen said otherwise, but that’s certainly a good building block.
The Cowboys have every right to feel proud of what they’ve accomplished in the first round of the draft over almost the last decade. It’s about more than that, though. Hopefully we start to see that more soon.