Hey, have you heard the news? Teams in the NFC East are all making big moves this offseason, while the Dallas Cowboys are just sitting on their hands doing nothing.
breaking: giants and eagles making moves to get better. cowboys paying fees to the nfl— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) March 7, 2018
All this moving around has made Cowboys fans dizzy. And from that dizziness, nausea is starting to set in as they cannot for the life of them understand why the Cowboys aren’t doing anything to upgrade their team. Doesn’t the Cowboys organization want to win? (Of course they do.) Why are they letting others around them get better while they do nothing?
Well, the short answer is - they’re not doing nothing. They are doing quite a bit actually, but sometimes it’s hard to recognize a good thing when it’s sitting right in front of us.
This offseason it’s a good bet that the Cowboys will sign two All-Pro players to long-term deals - Zack Martin and DeMarcus Lawrence. (It could end up being next year for Lawrence, but he’s a Cowboy for 2018). These are players the team drafted in 2014 who have played through their rookie contracts and have panned out for the Cowboys.
At some point in the near future the front office will pay them a lot of money to keep them in a Cowboys uniform for many years to come. If any other team in the league made moves to secure the services of two All Pro players like Martin and Lawrence, their fan base would be pleased.
Sure, there are players they would love to have from other teams, but they aren’t going to sell the farm to acquire them. In fact, they’re rather deliberate where their money goes for one very important reason that bears repeating - they like their own players.
The Cowboys are building through the draft; we get it. But does that mean they can’t open their wallets a little bit in free agency? Well, it does sorta. Every team needs to manage their money within the budget the NFL rules allot, but it just so happens that the Cowboys want that money to go to players they’ve gotten early in their NFL careers, coached up, and developed into great players. They aren’t so interested in players other teams are willing to part with because there are always reasons why those teams are willing to part with the player. They aren’t so interested in older players who don’t offer an appealing upside. And they aren’t so interested in quality players that will cost the team some precious draft capital that takes away an opportunity to get one of those players described above - homegrown players.
Now, while the Cowboys can’t land All-Pro talent at the drop of a hat, they still can keep stockpiling talent. The more, the merrier. Here is what they’ve brought home recently:
2014: Zack Martin, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Anthony Hitchens
2015: Byron Jones, La’el Collins, and David Irving
2016: Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Jaylon Smith
2017: Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie, and Jourdan Lewis
These are good players. Granted, some of them are better than others and in fact, some are downright spectacular, but most of these players are young and are only going to get better. And in a couple months, you can probably add about three more players to that list when the next draft arrives (I know you’re excited about those guys).
If the front office’s eyes start getting big for certain players they absolutely must have, then that’s when mistakes start happening. Next thing you know, the team loses out on an opportunity to get both Michael Brockers and Bobby Wagner like they did in 2012 when they absolutely had to have Morris Claiborne. Or they throw $50 million at Brandon Carr because he’s “the answer” at cornerback.
But most fans aren’t looking for Dallas to make big moves, but rather medium ones that will net the team a decent starter. That’s still hard to do. Sometimes a player looks more appealing because there is a glaring hole in the roster. But that’s like going grocery shopping when you’re starving. Bad idea.
What is unicorn meat? pic.twitter.com/WO6dyk6hFi— Private Label U (@PrivatelabelU) February 21, 2018
Instead, have a bowl a cereal first (fill the void), get your blood sugar level where it needs to be so you’re ready to make smart, calculated decisions. It’s easy for us to remember all the things the Cowboys have done wrong in free agency, but what gets lost is that they have done a solid job finding low-cost contributors who have paid immediate dividends. For example:
In 2013, they signed George Selvie ($700k/yr) and he had seven sacks that season.
In 2014, they signed Jeremy Mincey ($1.5M/yr) and he had six sacks that season.
In 2015, they signed Darren McFadden ($1.5M/yr) and he rushed for 1,089 yards in 13 starts.
In 2016, they signed Benson Mayowa ($2.75M/yr) and he had six sacks that season.
In 2017, they signed Jonathan Cooper ($2M/yr) and he started 13 games at left guard.
And there have been others. Terrell McClain was signed to a three-year, $3M deal in 2014, but he had trouble staying healthy. In 2016, he was able to stay on the field and was outstanding for the Cowboys defensive line. Last year, Stephen Paea was brought in to provide a cheap replacement ($2M) for McClain. He was playing well before his degenerative knee condition worsened and forced him into retirement.
Retaining talent is an important thing and can sting when the cap forces your hand. I’m sure in hindsight the New England Patriots would have loved to keep Chandler Jones instead of trading him away before he hit the free agent market. He sure would have come in handy during the Super Bowl. Or the Green Bay Packers are having second thoughts about letting defensive backs Casey Hayward or Micah Hyde leave in free agency. Both of those guys were Pro Bowlers this year, while the Packers secondary struggled. I’m sure there are some sour Cheeseheads still stewing about that one.
If you think this team’s luck is going to run out when it comes to quality drafting, then yes - be alarmed. But if you believe in this front office, then stop sweating the small stuff. And let’s rejoice when Zack and DeMarcus sign those extension because those are our Boys and they will be sticking around a while.