The Dallas Cowboys don’t like to spend a lot of money in free agency. They just don’t. Executive Vice President/Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones has reiterated many times that when teams pony up cash in free agency they’re knowingly overpaying. It’s a philosophy the younger Jones sets his watch to and it explains why the Cowboys have built up a history of cautious spending during free agency.
The team’s reluctance in making these larger financial commitments have led them to construct many one-year deals where their investment is minimal. If it doesn’t work out, the Cowboys are off the hook the next year, and it’s on to the next good find. This process has served them well, and more time than not they are cracking this free agent game by getting good value for their money. Granted, these low-risk transactions don’t offer much opportunity for big rewards, but the team is gradually starting to wade out a little further in the free agent pool.
Back in 2017, the best signing the team had was the former seventh overall pick of 2014, Jonathan Cooper, as the Cowboys got him on a one-year, $2 million deal. All Cooper did was start 13 games for the Cowboys, which was just one fewer than he had started in the previous three seasons of his NFL career combined. Earning the starting left guard spot after moving La’el Collins to right tackle, Cooper was a solid contributor along the offensive line. He played well enough to earn a one-year $4.9 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers the following year. However, he was released at final roster cuts. Dallas was fortunate that the best moments of his career just so happened to be in a Cowboys uniform.
In 2018, the Cowboys were extremely frugal in free agency. Players like Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, and Kony Ealy (didn’t make the team) were not expected to make a huge splash for the team. The best signing turned out to be backup tackle Cameron Fleming, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal. It was a little pricey considering he was just acquired as an insurance policy after the whole Chaz Green debacle of 2017, but it was money well spent as Fleming started three games after Tyron Smith went down to injury. The Cowboys were 3-0 in games he started that season.
The Cowboys like what they saw in Fleming to where they re-upped on him the following season. While they re-signed him to a two-year, $7.5 million deal, it really was a one-year deal with a second-year option. In the end, it cost the Cowboys $2.9 million for the 2019 season where he once again started three games for the injured Smith.
Dallas upped the ante last year when they acquired former Pro Bowlers Robert Quinn and Randall Cobb. Technically, the Cowboys traded for Quinn, but his draft cost was so low (sixth-rounder) that it was really about renting him for the one-year price of $8 million. Even though this was one of the team’s pricier outside investments, Quinn turned out to be a huge bargain as he led the team with 10.5 sacks last year. It was good enough to earn him a five-year, $70 million deal with the Chicago Bears this offseason.
And Cobb wasn’t too shabby either. He cost the Cowboys just $5 million and racked up 828 receiving yards last year. A great season helped him land a three-year, $27 million deal with Houston Texans this offseason. When you look at the Quinn and Cobb moves, it resulted in a fantastic use of resources.
It worked so well last year, why not have another go at this year? With the recent signing of Everson Griffen, the Cowboys have now signed three former Pro Bowlers to one-year deals:
- Everson Griffen, $6 million - averaging 9.5 sacks over the past six seasons (4 pro bowls)
- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, $3.75 million - 16 career picks over six seasons
- Aldon Smith, $2 million - 19.5 sacks in 2012
Now, all of these guys won’t hit. In fact, there’s no guarantee any of them will, but considering the price the Cowboys paid, there’s a great chance they get at least their money’s worth. And all these players have great upside to where if they ball out like last year’s Pro Bowl free agents did, they are going to complement this football team very well.
That’ll do, front office. That’ll do.