The last several weeks in the NFL has been a whirlwind of activity from trades to cap casualties to free agent signings. It started a week before the 2018 calendar year technically kicked off and there’s going to be a lot of new faces in new places this year. For all the movement that was happening around them, the Dallas Cowboys didn’t make their first move until a week after the new league year began. Of course, this didn’t sit well with a fan base that had watched their favorite team go 9-7 while their divisional foe won their first Super Bowl.
Fans have all the reason in the world to be impatient when it’s been two decades since they’ve tasted tangible success. In today’s world that is driven by social media, there is incredible access to forums in which to voice that displeasure. Fans are more knowledgeable than ever before and we know that BTB is one of the more plugged in NFL communities in existence. Folks around here know what they see on game day and where improvements need to be made.
There was absolutely no way the Cowboys were going to get a pass if the plan was going to be shopping in the $1.99 bargain bin and then the draft. Everyone from Cowboys beat writers to the fans were roasting the front office for their inactivity. After all, we’ve seen this rodeo before and weren’t buying another ticket to last year’s show with disasters behind every door.
The Cowboys went after Stephen Paea, but he turned out to have a degenerative knee. Nolan Carroll was never the same after injuries started catching up with him. Damontre Moore sold them a lie that he was on the straight and narrow. Terrance Williams was not the contributor on offense he once was. Every player except Williams was off the team by week eight and it was quite the batter’s slump for the Pro Personnel Department.
We were all guilty of just assuming the Cowboys would let another free agency pass by without finding some significant veteran help. Though it was certainly hard to remain patient, this past week’s moves were pleasantly surprising. We all learned a little lesson in assumptions and I, for one, am happy to eat a little crow. The Cowboys didn’t go out and throw money at the feet of Tyrann Mathieu or join in on the Ndamukong Suh Tour but they certainly got better.
For a team that primarily uses two linebackers with big plans for Jaylon Smith, they couldn’t afford to bid with the Chiefs for Anthony Hitchens. Still, they signed a player with familiarity in Joe Thomas that can backup at all three spots and play special teams. In the one year Thomas started seven games, he had 70 tackles, five pass deflections, and an interception.
After watching their offense sputter without Ezekiel Elliott and the passing game fail to make a difference, they opted to bring in reinforcements. Deonte Thompson isn’t the most exciting addition but he has traits to compete for a roster spot, at least covering them for the departure of Brice Butler. We mentioned TWill earlier, he struggled to be a reliable WR2 last season so he got competition. When former Pro Bowler Allen Hurns was the odd man out in Jacksonville, the Cowboys landed him on an insanely friendly deal, despite larger offers that likely existed:
The Cowboys vaunted offensive line saw significant change last season for the first time in years. They lost two starters in right tackle Doug Free and left guard Ronald Leary, the result was shuffling that only got worse when Tyron Smith missed a few games. The Cowboys tried band-aids with Byron Bell and Chaz Green but the left side of that line became a liability quick. Though left guard hasn’t been answered yet with last year’s starter Jonathan Cooper getting paid in San Francisco, there’s still time and an NFL Draft to rectify that. Where Dallas really needed to hit was at tackle due to the aforementioned issues with health and quality. They did just that by going after a quality player with starting experience in Cameron Fleming, who’s only 25 by the way and just started in a Super Bowl.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this entire equation is how the Cowboys shored up holes on the roster without spending mega bucks. We see every year how teams overpay for their free agents but somehow the Cowboys front office convinced these guys to sign at their price. We’re not certain the details of the Fleming deal but it’s probably very beneficial for Dallas.
This process isn’t done by any stretch as they could benefit from a slow safety market or find a veteran guard later. However, for a front office that was being mercilessly ridiculed over the past few weeks, they come away looking pretty astute at the moment.