The Dallas Cowboys have $46 million in cap space for the 2019 season. Initially, they had over $50 million in space, but performance escalators kicked in for Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown that has dropped that figure a bit. Even still - that’s a lot of spending money. The Cowboys have a lot of their own players who need second contracts so most of that money is already allocated for those purposes, but they still have some extra funds lying around should they choose to dabble in free agency.
The front office typically likes to pass on making big splashes in free agency. The risk is high as free agency has proven to be a poor investment as teams overpay for players they need to help their team. Great players are usually retained by their own team so the pool of available free agents consists of risky endeavors that may not be so evident to the buyer. If you look at the top 10 spenders in free agency last year, seven of those teams missed the playoffs.
On the flip side, if you look at the top 10 teams who were the most frugal in free agent spending, seven of them made the playoffs.
The Cowboys are one of those teams as are the New England Patriots who won the Super Bowl this past season.
There is no hard-fast rule about this. One thing doesn’t guarantee the other. A good front office can shell out some cash in free agency and still have things work out. But statistically, the odds are heavily stacked against those teams who do a lot of free agent spending. The Cowboys will most likely say, “no thank you” when it comes to throwing a lot of money at one of the premier free agent candidates, but is that the way to go? Are there players who can help this team that are worth the investment?
The first question that comes to mind is - where could the Cowboys use the most help? Is there a position on the team that desperately needs an upgrade? Recently, I polled the twitter community asking who was the worst starter on the team. Over 5,000 people voted, and here are the results:
Who do you think is the worst starter on the Cowboys?— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) February 15, 2019
Is Earl Thomas coming to Dallas? That story thrived all of last season even while Thomas was still under contract with the Seattle Seahawks. Now, he’s free to roam wherever he wants (unless the Seahawks franchise tag him) and recently bought a house in Texas. A talent like Thomas would be a great add to the team as it would reunite him with his former coach, Kris Richard. Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowler who is one of the best in the game when healthy, but he’ll be 30 years old when the new season starts. And he’ll cost north of $10 million per season. Is this the best use of free agent funds?
Thomas isn’t the only big name safety on the market as New York Giant’s All-Pro Landon Collins has finished out his rookie contract. At just 25-years-old, Collins has played well in his first four years in the league, including Pro Bowl honors in three straight seasons. He’s more of a hitter than a ball-hawk, but the Cowboys could use talent at either of those spots.
And it doesn’t stop there...
The free agent market for safeties is loaded:— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) February 15, 2019
Could the plethora of safety talent hitting free agency drop down the cost, making someone a great value signing?
Rookie Connor Williams got a lot of votes and based on last year’s performance - that’s fair. But the young offensive lineman played well enough for the team to feel good about his future. He struggled with some of the more powerful defensive tackles in the league, but he should only get better with more experience.
Los Angeles Rams guard Rodger Saffold is one of the top free agents this year, but he’s 30 years old and there’s a great chance other teams in the league need offensive line help way more than Dallas does. The Cowboys aren’t going to pony up a bunch of cash for a guard as they already have a lot of money invested into the offensive line as it is. Williams should be penciled in as the team’s starting left guard in 2019. Plus, if Travis Frederick returns healthy, the team would also have Joe Looney and Xavier Su’a-Filo to provide Williams with competition along the offensive line.
The Cowboys need a playmaking tight end. In 2017, Dak Prescott targeted his tight end 98 times and 87 of them were to Jason Witten. Even with Witten gone, Prescott still looked to his tight end 92 times last season as he loved using them as a safety net. The team used a committee approach of Blake Jarwin (27 catches), Geoff Swaim (26 catches), Dalton Schultz (12 catches), and Rico Gathers (3 catches) last year.
While those players provided a solid cast of options for Dak, they’re still missing a playmaker who can pose a threat over the seam. Is Jarwin that guy? The team could look to grab one of the top free agents to provide an immediate boost to this position. Jared Cook had 68 catches for 896 yards and six touchdowns last year, earning Pro Bowl honors for the first time in his career. He’ll be 32 years old when the season starts; is that how they should use spend their free agent money?
The upcoming draft is rich in tight end talent and if a talented young pass-catcher falls to them, that would be a much cheaper way to go.
Fans did not react well to Antwaun Woods being on the list and rightfully so - Woods was one of the most pleasant surprises on the Cowboys team last season. But this speaks more to the quality of talent of the other Cowboys starters not listed. There aren’t a lot of weak spots and someone has to be at the bottom.
Woods went undrafted in the 2016 NFL Draft and was released by the Tennessee Titans last summer. The Cowboys took a chance on him, signing him to a super-cheap, two-year, $1 million deal. Initially thought to just be a depth signing, Woods earned the starting 1-tech spot by the start of the regular season. While he is solid, is he really the answer long-term at the position? The Rams gashed the Cowboys up the middle for 273 yards rushing and despite the love for Woods, the team could use an upgrade in the interior of the defensive line.
Grady Jarrett is the prize defensive tackle on the free agent market. He’s an all-around great player who can rush the quarterback and be a force against the run. At just 25-years-old, he’ll be a top commodity this offseason. Just like tight end, the defensive tackle position offers a lot of good talent in the first two days of the draft. The Cowboys could go this route as it would be much cheaper.
What would you do?
If the Cowboys make a big free agent purchase, which of these players would you prefer?
This poll is closed
Earl Thomas, S
Landon Collins, S
Rodger Saffold, G
Jared Cook, TE
Grady Jarrett, DT