The front office of the Dallas Cowboys is all about building through the draft. The evidence is all around as they have done an outstanding job collecting stout collegiate talent in recent years. But the draft isn’t the only way to acquire great talent. The Cowboys stepped outside their comfort zone last year and made a big trade to get star receiver Amari Cooper. Could they shake things up even further and make a big free agent signing?
One guy on that list is All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Things are starting to heat up with the Earl-to-Dallas narrative as the cat and mouse game has begun. Is this a real thing or is it just another bogus storyline that will just get fans hopes up? Only time will tell, but there are definitely things about this whole situation that make it a real possibility. Here are three reasons why the Thomas signing makes perfect sense for the Cowboys.
1. The Cowboys are definitely interested
This love affair between Earl Thomas and the Dallas Cowboys isn’t one sided. Yes, it was Thomas that meandered though the tunnel exchanging pleasantries with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. And yes, it is Thomas that played high school ball at West Orange-Stark High, and then college at the University of Texas. And finally, Thomas just recently bought a house in Austin. Texas is his home.
And while it’s no secret that he would love to play for the Cowboys and the feeling is mutual across Cowboys Nation, where does the Cowboys front office stand on the issue? The answer to that is simple - they would love to have him. How do we know this? Because last offseason, the Cowboys made several attempts to trade for him. Seattle never bit, but they had a change of heart during the second round of the draft last year. Dallas could have landed Thomas in exchange for their 50th overall pick last year, but the Cowboys opted to select Connor Williams instead. The willingness to take on Thomas meant Dallas was prepared to handle the financial implications that followed.
If the Cowboys wanted Thomas when it cost them draft capital, why wouldn’t they want him now when he becomes a free agent?
2. The Cowboys have the resources
The Cowboys have a lot of their own free agents they need to re-sign to long-term deals soon. DeMarcus Lawrence is going to receive a huge deal soon. So is Dak Prescott. And then Ezekiel Elliott is right around the corner. When the team pulled the trigger on the Amari Cooper trade, they did so knowing full and well that he was going to be a sizable investment. While the Cowboys have a lot of cap space, a good chunk is going to be needed to pay their own stars, so do they really have the funds for Thomas?
The Cowboys have the sixth-most cap space of any team in the NFL over the next two years.
The reason they have all this money is because they’ve been able to fill a majority of the roster with low-cost players, most of which are playing on rookie deals. Of the 56 players who have active contracts, only 10 of them have a cap hit over $3 million. There are 34 players on the roster that will cost less than $1 million.
The Cowboys have the money for a outside free agent; they just have to be smart about it. If the players they are shelling out big money for are producing and the team continues to get such a large amount of contribution from their draft picks, they’ll have the resources to splurge a little for the right guy.
3. Where else is safety help going to come from?
The Cowboys don’t like giving up draft capital. That’s why it caught many of us off guard when they made the deal for Amari Cooper. In hindsight, it was an outstanding trade. He’s definitely worth it. But even without knowing what we know now, the Cowboys had great justification for making the decision they did - It’s not easy to land a star wide receiver. The opportunities are scarce and more times than not - teams have to roll the dice and hope for the best. The success rate of first-round receivers isn’t great. Look at the 15 wide receivers that have been taken in the first round over the last four drafts:
Not only is Cooper the only star receiver from the last four year’s worth of first-rounders, but it’s not even close.
Good safeties are also hard to find. First off, there aren’t a lot of star-caliber safeties available. Of the 21 safeties selected in the first two rounds over the last four drafts - only five of them are stars - Landon Collins (2015), Derwin James (2018), Jamal Adams (2017), Budda Baker (2017), and Keanu Neal (2016). That equates to 1.25 great safeties available in the first two rounds of the drafts. Those aren’t good odds when there are 32 teams making picks. It’s even worse odds if you don’t get to pick until late in the second round. All of those players were taken either in the first or early second. The Cowboys odds of landing a talented safety at pick 58 are not very good.
And it gets much harder later in the draft. If you look at the 56 safeties selected at pick 58 or lower in the draft, only two of them are having standout careers - Kevin Byard of the Titans (64th overall in 2016) and Eddie Jackson of the Bears (112th overall in 2017). In fact, Xavier Woods ranks 11th out of those 56. He’s solid if you like solid. Earl Thomas is not solid. He’s real and he’s spectacular.
The Cowboys have a plan. Jerry Jones has even indicated that free agent safeties are something that’s on their mind, but he’s being tight-lipped about it.
Will the Cowboys have discussions about the safety position during free agency? Jerry Jones: “Yes, but that’s about all I’ll say.”— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) February 19, 2019
Adding a player like Thomas would be an instant upgrade to the defense. This group is already on the rise and a veteran presence who has a tendency to come up with big plays would be welcomed.