It wasn’t that long ago when many people were upset with the front office of the Dallas Cowboys. The team was quiet during the first wave of free agency and fans were left wondering how this team was expected to improve upon last year’s squad. With no first-round pick this year, the Cowboys are going to miss out on the top players from this draft class. And with a conservative approach to free agency, what exactly would that mean for the team’s offseason upgrades? It didn’t look promising.
But here we are now and things look really good heading into the draft. Not only did the Cowboys sign the league’s top free agent in DeMarcus Lawrence, but they got him for a couple million less than what he would’ve commanded had he hit the free agent market. To go along with Lawrence, the team also traded a 2020 sixth-round draft pick for veteran defensive end Robert Quinn. Just like that, the Cowboys suddenly have one of the better edge rushing duo’s in the league. That’s a big accomplishment considering edge rushers are one of the most crucial positions in the NFL.
The Cowboys also signed many of their own free agents that hit the market, most importantly - Cameron Fleming. The swing tackle insurance the team purchased last offseason has been renewed for another two years. Considering Tyron Smith’s clockwork tendency to miss three games, that’s a pretty important signing. In 2017, the Cowboys offense averaged just seven points a game without Smith as the swing tackle combo of Chaz Green and Byron Bell was atrocious. With Fleming filling in, the offense averaged 27 points a game without Smith this past season. That’s a big swing.
The team’s biggest loss this offseason is the departure of Cole Beasley. The team would’ve liked to retain their veteran slot receiver, but they weren’t going to invest the money it took to keep him in Dallas. Beasley left for the wonderful facilities in Buffalo, so the Cowboys went to plan B. That plan consisted of signing former Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb. It’s up for debate as to which receiver is better. Beasley was such an important safety net for Dak Prescott, but he didn’t have that big play ability. Cobb is a former Pro Bowler who has a nice résumé of production, but most of that was earlier in his career when he was healthy. It’s true that health will be a concern for Cobb as he’s missed eight games over the past two seasons compared to just one from Beasley. Despite playing in seven fewer games in that span, Cobb still had more catches and more yards than Beasley. If Cobb stays healthy, and that’s certainly an “if,” he should end up being the more productive receiver of the two.
Cobb’s $5 million deal is the most money the Cowboys have invested in outside free agents this offseason. That shouldn’t surprise people. The team also signed some low cost defensive linemen in Christian Covington and Kerry Hyder. While nobody expects much from these guys, the Cowboys have a good track record getting solid contribution from cheap defensive line investments. Players like George Selvie, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain, and Antwaun Woods have logged some quality snaps despite costing the team almost nothing against their salary cap.
Much to the chagrin of many, the team didn’t make the big splash fans were hoping for at the safety position, yet they covered themselves with a cheap one-year deal for George Iloka. It wasn’t ground-breaking, but it was a solid signing nonetheless. At the very least, the team has filled holes at the bottom of their roster so they can now go into the draft and select players without worrying about any glaring needs.
And that brings us to the upcoming festivities that await us in a couple weeks. While it feels a lot better now than it did a month ago, this thing is just getting started. The draft is where it gets done. There will be good football players at 58. There will be good football players at 90. And there will be good football players on Day 3. The Cowboys are going to find those players because they aren’t boxed in a corner to take a specific position. Sure, many of us want a safety in the second round, but we should prepare ourselves for the unexpected. Don’t be surprised if they draft a cornerback at pick 58. And try not to be shocked if a running back is selected at 90. It would be great if each pick hit the spot in terms of addressing the team’s most pressing needs, but that’s not how the Cowboys draft. Today’s needs may not be tomorrow’s needs, but collecting good players will always come in handy.
Drafting pure is what’s been working for the team over the years so expect more of the same. Stephen Jones makes no secret about it.
We feel like we’ve put ourselves in a great place to draft well again in terms of filling our needs through free agency and being able to take the best player on the board. I feel like that’s why we’ve had some real productive drafts over the last eight to ten years.
The Cowboys have been drafting extremely well in recent years. We all know about the long list of All-Pro first rounders, but the list of quality picks has expanded to other rounds as well. That’s good news considering the team will have to sit on their hands for the first 57 picks of the draft. But this front office is patient. They can wait it out with the best of them. It should be interesting to see what players come off the board and what that means for the Cowboys when they are on the clock.