Free agency officially begins on 4 p.m. (EST) Wednesday, but the real action will start today as teams are allowed to enter the “legal tampering period” where negotiations can take place. It’s going to be a wild ride this week as there will be some big deals going down with teams looking to bolster their roster. For Cowboys fans, this a time to get out our popcorn, butter it up real good, and then toss it in the trash because let’s face it - there are not going to be any blockbuster signings for this organization. At least, that is what we have been conditioned to think. But that doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t be turning to free agency to fill holes on their roster. What type of signings can we expect?
What you won’t see...
The Cowboys are committed to Dez Bryant. He’s not going anywhere. The Cowboys are done with Brice Butler. He’s outta here. The Cowboys needs at receiving could be as simple as replacing their #5 WR. With the draft containing a wide range of talent at the receiver position, that would be the most sensible way to get a low-cost wide receiver under contract for the next four years. Any desirable free agent option would be too much of a hit on the cap and the Cowboys need those funds for other things. Any realistic free agent WR signing would just be a player who would have to fight for a roster spot in training camp.
Most people have already priced Anthony Hitchens out of Dallas. That’s fair. The Cowboys would love to keep him, but there are other teams with far more cap space who could overpay the veteran linebacker. Once Hitchens is lost, the inclination is that Dallas would just look for another linebacker in their price range. That’s not likely to happen. Just because they were willing to throw some money at Hitchens doesn’t mean any linebacker will do. The Cowboys may still sign a linebacker to fill a void, but it will be a low-cost, bottom end player to round out the depth at the position. He’d be more of a Kyle Wilber replacement than Hitchens. A couple months ago, we brought up four possible linebacker candidates who the Cowboys may be interested in. The team still has Damien Wilson as a fail-safe, which should be good enough to allow them to draft pure in April.
What we could see...
It won’t be earth-shattering, but the front office will be on the look out for players that can help shore up the roster. At this point, they have a good idea where the talent in the draft is laid out and that will be taken into account when they make their free agent decisions. For example, last year they let all their defensive backs walk because they knew the draft had a lot of talent to choose from. Positions rich in talent may not be addressed in free agency, whereas those positions lean in starting-caliber players could make them a bigger priority in free agency. At what position is the 2018 NFL Draft lacking talent?
Unless the Cowboys somehow manage to work a deal to move up to get Derwin James, the chance to improve at safety from the draft is slim. There aren’t a lot of great choices at the position in this year’s draft so if the team is going to upgrade this spot, free agency is their best chance.
If the Cowboys make a big free agent signing this offseason, it’s going to be the safety they wanted in 2013. He was a pre-draft visitor coming out of college, but was selected three spots before the Cowboys were on the clock. Last year, his name surfaced again as the team was rumored to be trying to deal Orlando Scandrick and a sixth-round pick to acquire Vaccaro from the Saints.
The Saints are willing to let Vaccaro test the free agent market as they just recently signed former Panthers’ safety Kurt Coleman. The Cowboys will now have a chance to get the veteran safety as long as the price is within reason. Vaccaro missed games last season due to an injury and while he’s played well - his price could be on the fringe of where the Cowboys front office are willing to pay to land him.
Dallas is cautious about spending a lot of money on free agents, but they’ve done their homework with Vaccaro. Their continued interest in him may allow the front office to open up their wallets a little more to get him.
Contract: Five-years, $30.5 million ($6.1 M average)
If the Cowboys lose out on Vaccaro, Seattle’s Bradley McDouglad could be a good backup plan. While Earl Thomas is the Seahawks safety Cowboys fans are calling for, McDouglad fits within the team’s budget, and he wouldn’t cost them a draft pick. The 27-year-old played every game for Seattle last season and started nine of them. He had 75 tackles and four pass breakups.
If the Cowboys are interested in McDouglad, that’s great news because new defensive backs coach (and former Seahawks defensive coordinator), Kris Richard, is very familiar with the type of player he is.
Contract: Three-years, $12 million ($4 M average)
There are some great choices in the upcoming draft on the offensive line, but that should not deter the team from addressing this position in free agency. Ideally, it would be great to get Jonathan Cooper back so the team has a nice veteran who is already acclimated to the offense. Dallas should try to sign him to a one-year, $3 million deal to buy them some time to find a long-term solution.
If Cooper doesn’t get re-signed, there are a couple players the team could go after. The Cowboys will pass on the more expensive guards in free agency and start their shopping after the top names go off the market.
The former second-round pick from UCLA has good footwork and has the ability to move well in the Cowboys zone-blocking running attack. While he has the exact same frame as Zack Martin (6’ 4”, 307 pounds), he lacks Martin’s overall strength to move the defenders. But he moves his hips well and his maneuverability will help him set blocks in the second level. Su’a-Filo would give the team a solid player at left guard.
Contract: One-year, $2 million
The Cowboys might even go cheaper than that if they can’t get a good price for Su’a-Filo.
Just like Su’a-Filo, Billy Turner was selected in the 2014 draft, but was taken a round later as he was the Miami Dolphin’s third-round pick. He was one of the Cowboys pre-draft visitors that season so he’s a player the team has been interested in at one point. Turner has the athletic agility to move well and is an aggressive run blocker. Like Su’a-Filo, he lacks overall play strength, but possesses the footwork and nastiness to be a good depth guy for the Cowboys.
After the Broncos signed Ron Leary in free agency, Turner was stuck behind him on the depth chart. Adding Turner would give the Cowboys a player who could compete for a job at left guard.
Contract: One-year, $1 million
Over the last few years, the Cowboys have used free agency to add depth on the interior defensive line. It’s came with mixed results. The team was right about Terrell McClain when they signed him to a three-year, $3 million deal in 2014. While he had trouble staying healthy, he was one of the teams best defensive players in 2016. Unfortunately, his contract expired and he now makes north of $5 million per year in Washington. The Cowboys guessed wrong on Cedric Thornton a couple years ago as he only played one season with Dallas and was stuck behind McClain. Last year, the team gave Stephen Paea a one-year, $2 million deal to replace McClain. Unfortunately, a bad knee cut his season short and forced him into retirement.
The Cowboys will look again to find a good 1-tech defensive tackle. There are some good players in the upcoming draft, but who knows when they’ll go after him. Last year, the team waited until picks 228 and 246 to select defensive tackles when they selected Joey Ivie and Jordan Carrell respectively. Neither made the team. Dallas already has several low-end players to fall back on (Richard Ash, Lewis Neal, Datone Jones, and possibly Brian Price if they re-sign him), so it wouldn’t make sense to just sign another JAG.
The team’s bad luck with free agent defensive tackles (even when they sign a good one, they get hurt) may cause them the wave the white flag in this department. Or, they could just do a better job of evaluating players. If they choose the latter, they could go after this guy...
Would the Cowboys dare take another DT from an NFC East foe? The Giants’ Jay Bromley has quick get-off and plays with a lot of energy. He’s a good tackler and is strong against the run, but he also possesses some good pass rushing ability.
Our own Ryan Ratty mentioned Bromley a couple weeks ago as a possible free agent acquisition.
At age 26, he is still young. He has some athleticism to him at the size of 6-foot-3, 315 pounds. Bromley moves pretty well for a guy his size.
With an absolute physical specimen in front of him in Damon Harrison, Bromley failed to get ample time, splitting playing time with Dalvin Tomlinson. However, by coming to Dallas, Bromley will get the opportunity to work with Rod Marinelli and be given the time and opportunity to blossom further.
The Cowboys would have to throw a little money his way in order to acquire him.
Contract: Four-years, $16 million ($4 M average)
Would you want the Cowboys to sign any of these players? Which free agent would you like to see the Cowboys go after?