Free agency doesn’t begin until Wednesday but already the league has been making moves. The Cleveland Browns are are re-making their roster, the Seahawks have put a large “For Sale” sign up in the yard, while the Rams and Eagles have been busy, too.
All of this has caused the Cowboys social media landscape to be up in arms with the Cowboys for choosing to sit back. But maybe Cowboys fans should be happy that Dallas is sitting back.
The Cowboys have, quite simply, had an awful run of luck with scouting veteran talent recently. Look no further than the fresh disaster of last season’s free agent acquisitions for proof. There’s nothing to gain in beating that dead horse over and over again.
At one point in time, if Jerry Jones wanted a player, there wasn’t a team in the world that would outbid him but times have changed. Times have changed. Everyone wants them to go out and swing a trade or pay retail prices because they have been bottom fishing in the bargain bin the past four years with few big successes. This front office did pay market value for top free agents not too long ago, and it wasn’t much different.
The last veteran guy they truly wined, dined, pulled out the red carpet for, and paid retail value for was Brandon Carr in 2012 (five-year, $50.1 million deal). Carr played every game of that contract but he never earned the dollar figure attached. That year was the last spending spree the Cowboys went on as they paid Mackenzy Bernadeau $11.5 million over four years to start at guard and Kyle Orton $10.5 million over three years to backup Tony Romo. Since then, they have handed out more modest but rarely hitting on the mid-level stuff.
In 2014, they signed former Rod Marinelli disciple, Henry Melton, to be their ‘war daddy’ three tech. They gave Melton a four-year, $27.5 million deal but under the surface it was essentially an incentive-laden one-year deal with an easy out. After Melton was outplayed halfway through his debut season by Tyrone Crawford, they dumped Melton and signed Crawford to a five-year, $45 million extension, that just so happens to be one of their worst contracts now. In 2015, they tried a one-year rental of Greg Hardy at $11.1 million that didn’t work out but they kept themselves safe there too. They even tried a four-year $17 million deal on a 1-tech, Cedric Thornton, that did so little he only confirmed their reluctance to pay that position.
Of course they have had some minor successes like a George Selvie or a Jeremey Mincey along the way, but they usually don’t last long and they are usually paid below retail.
Nobody is denying that free agency can be a useful tool but do you trust the Cowboys front office to get it right? They prefer to use the draft as their main resource because that’s what they’ve been good at and they are not alone. It’s much harder for teams nowadays to bring in veterans because the good ones don’t usually become available. That’s why you’re seeing an influx on trades as teams aren’t interested in paying retail in free agency.
The Cowboys have had a much better track record with the draft. They found a franchise quarterback in the fourth round, spent top draft choices on All Pro offensive lineman, traded up for a ‘war daddy’ pass rusher that they’ll have to pay, added young talent in the secondary, and built a team around a dynamic running back.
Sticking with the NFL Draft because of their lack of success with acquiring veterans is not efficient as the better teams have a balanced blend of both. With that said, the Cowboys shouldn’t be deterred by past failures from diligently searching for veteran upgrades, but we should be careful about wanting them to spend a lot of money in free agency given their recent track record.