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Cowboys going about free agent business differently this year

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The Cowboys seemed to have changed some things this year.

NFL Combine - Day 3
How big is his influence?

By now, we know the drill. The Dallas Cowboys always hang back early in free agency to let the market settle down. Then they look for bargains. It always creates days of worry and concern for us . . .

Wait a minute.

Things are not going according to form. Already the Cowboys have reached an agreement with DL Gerald McCoy, filling a big need on defense. Reports also indicate that the team has serious interest with WR Emmanuel Sanders, and that they were looking at CB Desmond Trufant before he signed elsewhere. And all this emerged before free agency officially started, during the “tampering” period.

This is just not the way the Cowboys do business. Or, at least, did business.

Admittedly, not everything has changed. McCoy’s deal is pretty much a bargain for the team at just over $6 million per year with $9 million in guarantees, which certainly doesn’t change the principle of looking for affordable deals and above all not getting into a long-term, expensive contract with an aging veteran. It is just the speed with which the Cowboys have gotten involved in things. “Urgency” is the word that comes to mind.

What could be driving this change? Well, it really isn’t hard to find the most likely suspect. Dallas has a new head coach with a largely overhauled staff. You probably don’t have to look any further than that to understand why business seems to be conducted a bit differently this year. Call it the Mike McCarthy effect, free agency subset.

This brings up something that goes back to my roots as a writer for this blog. If there is one thing that inspired me to start putting stuff out here, it was the idea stated by more than one mainstream sports writer that Jerry Jones wanted a puppet as head coach. Although he did have to grow into things a bit, Jones has for years been a very collaborative, consensus building leader. His head coach gets a great deal of input on how the entire organization is run. Many have long placed the blame for how personnel issues are handled by the Cowboys squarely at the feet of Jones and his son, Stephen. But this much more proactive approach to free agency begs a question: How much did Jason Garrett drive those things during his tenure?

I realize that correlation is not causation, but this is not the only aspect of free agency that makes you wonder about such things. Already, the Cowboys have parted ways with Jason Witten and Jeff Heath, who both are off to the Las Vegas Raiders with apparently no interest from the Cowboys in keeping them. Both were the epitome of that Garrett ideal, the right kind of guy. Both are also long time veterans, another decided Garrett preference. Witten in particular has been described (or accused) of being a “Garrett guy” in the past. Had Dallas not made the change at head coach, it is entirely possible that one or both of the players might still be on the roster this year.

As mentioned before, urgency seems the main thing that has changed since the team has yet to start throwing money around. But that is a very big shift in and of itself. No more just sitting around for the first few days of free agency to see how things sort out. That probably is directly tied to the coaching change. Not so much because it is a McCarthy input, but because the idea get this roster set up for the new staff expeditiously. Given all the other issues that are being dealt with, it is one thing that can be done now, so they might as well utilize the situation wisely.

The Cowboys have already seen a lot of starters head out the door. Having a lot of holes to fill is nothing new. Apparently realizing that waiting to hit the bargain bins is not the best way to find new players is very different, and frankly quite welcome.

If nothing else, the McCoy deal and the reports of interest in Sanders and Trufant are encouraging. It certainly seems far better than sitting around and waiting. It has made the start of free agency much more entertaining for fans of the Cowboys than it has been in a long time.

And let’s face it, some safe entertainment is not a bad thing right now.