For years, June 1 was an important date for NFL teams, because after June 1, unrestricted free agent signings didn’t count against a team’s compensatory draft-pick formula. But that date has steadily moved forward, as Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times explains:
From 2011-15, that date was June 1, meaning any player signed after that date would not count. Teams that maybe wanted a player but also wanted to try to hold on to any comp picks they felt they might be due would often wait until June 1 or later if they could.
From 2016-19 that date inched a little closer – the second Tuesday after the NFL draft, or usually somewhere in mid-May.
Under the new CBA, that date is sooner – the Monday following the NFL draft, which this year is April 27 .
Those moves were made to incentivize teams to sign veteran free agents shortly after the NFL draft instead of waiting until shortly before camp as many teams had done in the past. The thinking was that those veterans would then be able to participate in a team’s OTAs and offseason program instead of sitting on their couch and waiting for a call in July or August.
So the Cowboys of the past might have been a bit reticent about going out and signing free agents right after the draft, as that might have jeopardized their comp pick haul.
But that’s over now. Starting on today, the Cowboys and all other teams can start signing unrestricted free agents without compromising possible compensatory picks in 2021.
Including the 14 undrafted free agents the Cowboys have reportedly signed, the team is currently at around 88 players (including suspended players Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith) so they still have room to add players before they hit the NFL roster limit of 90 players.
The team has repeatedly emphasized that roster building is a year-round activity, but are there any quality players available at this time of year?
The Cowboys reportedly had interest in CB Dre Kirkpatrick as late as last week, but that interest may have waned with the selection of not one, but two corners in the draft.
The second wave of free agency has been a mixed bag of goods for the Cowboys in the past. The Cowboys did manage to sign the likes of George Selvie (signed Jul 26, 2013), Rolando McClain (acquired in a trade on July 2, 2014), and Justin Durant (signed July 18, 2016), who all provided a welcome, if brief, contribution to the team. But a look at the players the Cowboys signed in the second wave of free agency last year shows just how barren the landscape can be at this time of year:
- June 19: Ryan Yurachek (waived Aug. 31)
- July 24: Taryn Christion (waived Sept. 1)
- July 30: Alfred Morris (released Sept. 7)
- Aug. 1: Justin Phillips (waived Aug. 31)
- Aug. 3: Tariq Cole (waived Aug. 4)
- Aug. 6: Lukayus McNeil (waived Aug. 31)
- Aug. 6: Tyvis Powell (waived Aug. 31)
- Aug. 7: Juwann Bushell-Beatty (waived Aug. 31)
- Aug. 7: Marcus Lucas (waived Aug. 31)
The Cowboys will certainly continue to bring in players to maintain a minimum body count during whatever version of training camp we’ll see this year, but very few of those signings will be expected to survive final roster cuts.
The team might still be in the market for a veteran backup QB, some extra depth at linebacker, perhaps a tight end with speed, they could bring in a punter to “compete” with Chris Jones, and they’ll likely continue to look for bargains all over the roster, even if the list of remaining veterans is slim pickings.
But with the surplus of picks coming in 2021, the Cowboys may want to explore a different route. Instead of sifting through the free agency leftovers, perhaps they could use one of the 2021 late-round picks to trade for a veteran player from another team?
Who would you want the Cowboys to go out and get?