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Will the Cowboys finally become more active in trades and free agency this year?

It might be time to deviate from the most recent norm.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday the collective world of the NFL was taken by surprise when the Los Angeles Rams traded for Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters.

The move bolsters the Rams secondary, giving defensive coordinator Wade Phillips another toy to play with. It’s the second “oh my” trade LA has made in the Sean McVay era, as they pulled the trigger on acquiring receiver Sammy Watkins from Buffalo shortly before last season began.

These two trades have happened before the trade that started it all even turns two years old. Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft the then freshly Los Angeles Rams made a deal to jump to the draft’s top pick in order to select quarterback Jared Goff.

It’s hard to disagree with this philosophy as the Rams were the NFC’s third seed last year during a renaissance year of sorts for the franchise. McVay even won Coach of the Year, and the Rams look like the NFC’s next formidable foe.

Of course for the Rams to have serious success within the conference they’ll have to go through the reigning Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. It was right after LA made their move to the top pick that the Eagles made theirs to the one right behind them with the same purposes in mind, landing their franchise quarterback Carson Wentz.

Just like the Rams, the Eagles have stayed busy working the phones over the last two rotations around the sun. Philly has traded for players like Timmy Jernigan, Ronald Darby, and Jay Ajayi, all players that helped them win their world championship. We’re talking about the two teams who have become the class of the conference and there’s one obvious common denominator... being willing to make trades.

Dallas lost both games that mattered to the Rams and Eagles in 2017, and they’re clearly looking up at them heading into 2018. They haven’t been keen on building their roster the same way these two teams have, Stephen Jones is historically opposed to trading.

“You can’t just overpay for something even though you may want it and it may be tempting,” Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We just didn’t feel like the value was there in terms of the trade for us. … As I’ve said all along, we always look for opportunities to get better, but we’re certainly not going to force the issue. At some point, if you will, [you could] really compromise our team in the future overpaying for something for the moment.”

It isn’t just through the mechanism of trading that the Rams and Eagles (other teams for that matter) have gone from eh to great quickly. Free agency is starting to become akin to the NFL the way the fast forward option is in The Amazing Race. The Denver Broncos turned free agency into a Super Bowl victory. The aforementioned Rams and Eagles were not afraid to pay premium prices for players that could, and eventually did, help them get over the hump.

Now just because Stephen Jones is opposed to trades doesn’t mean he’s opposed to free agency. The thing is though, he kind of sort of is opposed to free agency, being unwilling to commit big money for guys he knows less than the ones in his building.

”I’ve said it always about free agency: Sometimes you’re required to use it, but you better go in with your eyes wide open that you’re overpaying. You’re going to pay good players like they’re great, average players like they’re good, below average players like they’re average. It’s just not a great way to build a football team. But sometimes there’s situations that do present themselves and you’ve got to be ready to do that if you see the right value there. Not a huge fan of having to go out and pay guys a lot of money, filling in big needs through unrestricted free agency. We’d rather build through the draft and then pay our own players.”

Building through the draft is a great idea in theory, and it’s one Cowboys fans wanted the franchise to get back to when they relied upon trades and free agency. Over recent history we’ve seen the Cowboys shift from one extreme to another as opposed to finding a healthy balance.

There are teams that have successes one particular way (the Packers are great at building through the draft), but the largest probability of success is a happy combination between the draft, trading, and free agency. What’s more is that you can’t rely solely on the draft and then devote such premium picks to players like Randy Gregory that blow up in your face (for now).

The NFL is a copycat league and perhaps the Eagles winning the Super Bowl will be enough to finally open the Cowboys eyes to other methods of roster construction besides the draft. It’s a game of calculation, formulation, and accreditation, and the Cowboys need to be able to do all three well or they’ll be left behind.

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