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Cowboys mastering calculated-risk management in second wave of free agency

The Cowboys are taking some calculated risks as they remain patient in second wave of free agency.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Spoke too soon. Last week, I penned a piece calling for a change to the Cowboys free agency process. Turns out, they were doing their homework all along and maybe yours truly was just a little impatient.

For several years, the Cowboys’ SVP Stephen Jones has stated that he doesn’t like paying players above their production capabilities which is essentially what free agency is. You are always having to pay players for what they have done instead of what they’re going to do for you. An exercise in patience through the first week has led the Cowboys to all kinds of free agency flirtation in the second wave.

There is a reoccurring theme to many of the players that the Cowboys are bringing in and that’s injury risk. Between Eric Berry, Randall Cobb, and Clayton Geathers, there are a lot of games missed more recently. At the same time, those players have all been very productive when they have been healthy. The Cowboys lost Cole Beasley to the Bills in the first wave of free agency but have supplemented that loss not only by re-signing Tavon Austin but inking Randall Cobb on a one-year deal.

Looking up at the depth chart for 2019, there is a whole lot of potential for explosive playmaking at the receiver position. Cobb played in only nine games last year but he has made big-time plays countless times throughout his career. Cole Beasley averaged three receptions, 32-yards, and 0.2 touchdowns per game in a Dallas uniform. Cobb averaged five receptions, 53-yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game with only two more games played than Beasley.

Cobb’s 53-yards per game is second on the Cowboys depth chart, trailing Amari Cooper’s 64-yards. Since 2014, Cobb’s Pro-Bowl season, he’s missed a total of 35 games, that’s something that dropped his price considerably. The Cowboys know there is potential there but they have also protected themselves with a low-risk investment.

The Cowboys have made a few low-key signings with Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder, two productive defensive linemen with position versatility. Dallas isn’t done on the defensive line as they still have a contract extension with DeMarcus Lawrence to work out. Dallas is also pursuing a trade with the Dolphins for the services of Robert Quinn. With Randy Gregory out indefinitely, the Cowboys have to get more from their pass rush. The inclination to go after a guy like Quinn shows that the Cowboys are not waiting around for Gregory or for Taco Charlton to emerge. The Cowboys are also aware that picking in the second-round is not going to leave them with options for an immediate impact. They are looking for impact now but if a Quinn trade doesn’t work out, they will likely pursue more avenues.

Where the Cowboys deserved criticism in the past was the idea that free agency is just an area to plug holes with bargain bin free agents. That’s not necessarily a bad idea but the Cowboys were reaching down to the lowest depths of these bins. Guys like Joe Looney were solid pickups and have stuck around but these types are great insurance policies with little potential to make an impact. The Cowboys are still bargain shopping but they have changed up their style to take risks in hopes that a few may bring a more impactful payoff. These guys may all have some warts but trust that every free agent that hits the market has imperfections.

With the position the Cowboys will be picking in this year’s draft and where there roster sits currently, it makes sense to take several risky swings in free agency. Relying on their ability to hit on draft picks was not going to be enough, they need impact players on both sides of the ball. Before long, the Cowboys will be potentially paying big figures to Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, and many more talents on their young roster. The time to swing is now and the Cowboys are doing that without completely compromising their core values for roster building. The Cowboys might strike out on a few free agents but at least they are swinging the bat.