We are not at all done with NFL free agency. While it is slowing down, and there will probably not many, or not any, big deals yet to be completed, there are still a ton of good players that are still looking for a new gig. The market has also rather collapsed, as illustrated by the generally low costs the Dallas Cowboys have incurred in signing their new free agents so far, as well as the bargain Xavier Woods was for the Minnesota Vikings as he is now headed north.
This is something of a perfect storm for Stephen Jones, Cowboys holder of the purse and crusader for parsimony. Not only are the prices for good, or at least helpful, free agents way down at this point, most are willing to sign one-year deals with an eye to testing the waters again next season when the cap is expected to rebound significantly. So far, Dallas seems to be doing a much more effective job with its signings. We’ve been fooled before, with 2020 being both the most recent and one of the most obvious examples, but things really seem different. Players like Brent Urban, Keanu Neal, and Damontae Kazee appear to be real upgrades for the roster. And they are not as old and decrepit as so many of the well-known but over-the-hill names from last year’s group. Only Ty Nsecke falls into the advanced football age category, and his recent history is much more encouraging than the résumés of players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Dontari Poe were when the Cowboys gave them a whirl. Additionally, offensive tackle is one place where it is not unusual for players to continue to do well into their mid-thirties. Technique and intelligence, arguably more influential for offensive linemen than most positions, are traits that can help them do so. Raw strength also plays a big role in the trenches, and that is something that can be maintained with hard work more so than speed or quickness.
But there are still a couple of places where Dallas still needs to add some new blood before the draft. Free agency never really ends, given that re-signing your own is a part of the equation and can be done at any time, but we are in the hot zone still for bringing in outside players. Here are the main areas where the team should be looking intently.
With Chidobe Awuzie now a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cowboys are shorthanded at the position. While we expect them to use draft picks to add players, with their tenth overall pick a popular idea to get Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn, you can’t rely on the draft to fall your way. With big-time trades already in place ahead of them, the way things will go is highly unpredictable. There are some other intriguing names that could make sense as well, and trading back is also very much an option. There is also a real tendency for the Cowboys to want to go into the draft with no glaring needs, and right now, that is exactly what cornerback represents for them.
The slow market in free agency means that there are still some very good names still available.
Let’s be honest, he is the player that generates the most excitement for a lot of us. His links to new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are important, as Neal and Kazee illustrate. But he is not alone.
He was the best corner for the New York Jets last year. Yes, they had a dismal season, but he still stood out.
A bit older at 31, he still looks to have a couple of good years left in him. And veteran experience is something the team is looking to add at the position.
He is particularly intriguing, because the Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly released him for monetary/cap reasons, not performance.
He was strong in 2019 before struggling last year with injuries. Which, unfortunately, is right in Stephen Jones’ wheelhouse.
Another player with a problematic injury history but good talent.
Any of these might be signings that fit in the category of decent or even good additions, and there are a lot more that might be the kind of bargain-bin acquisition we have seen so often for Dallas. Look to the team to begin sifting through the possibilities now that OT, DT, and S are pretty much handled.
The Cowboys have real questions about how Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch will respond in Quinn’s defense. And they have holes to fill with the departure of Joe Thomas and the possible retirement of Sean Lee.
He’s the best 4-3 linebacker left, and he has already created a bit of a stir with his remarks about the Cowboys being a “dream team” for him. He’s not likely to be as cheap as some of the previous signings for them, but they would be foolish to not make a call to find out just what it would take.
He needs to work on his tackling, but is strongest in coverage, which may be attractive.
Another backer who is best in coverage.
Had a down year last season, so would be a bit of a reclamation project.
Coming off a bad knee injury, he would be a similar case to Kazee. But if the physical exam went right, might be a possibility.
Those are the cream of the current FA crop at their positions, with lots of other names where Dallas might think they can find a hidden potential.
Those are the most likely places for the Cowboys to make another addition. There is also a chance that they will add a veteran backup quarterback, but they already have numbers at the position and may think Garrett Gilbert is a QB2 they can roll with. They would likely have to go to the restructuring well again to find a bit more cap space, especially if they want Sherman or Wright, but they have several options remaining. It certainly seems they are not done with free agency this year with a month left to go until draft day.