These are the times that try Dallas Cowboys fans’ souls. We have been battered by the way the team has or is handling contract decisions involving DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, and Randy Gregory. While there may be valid reasons for Cooper and Collins to go, they reportedly lost Gregory to the Denver Broncos over one clause in his contract and made a frankly insulting initial offer to Lawrence in trying to rework his deal. Now we are left wondering if Jerry and Stephen Jones can overcome their own dysfunction to fill the remaining holes in free agency, or if we will have to hope for Dallas to hit on every single draft pick.
Those holes will get plugged, of course. The issue is that the well-established pattern for the Cowboys is to wait until all the more expensive and presumably more talented free agents are off the market, then round up leftovers on veteran minimum contracts. Last season turned out remarkably well, as they have already re-signed Malik Hooker from that group and hopefully will at least add Jayron Kearse back as well. Unfortunately, the ownership probably does not acknowledge how much luck was involved in having so many solid contributors emerge from last year’s free agent crop and thinks it can replicate that. Opportunities exist for them to make a serious move in free agency. So far, however, they seem to be relying on the usual approach, having already missed out on chances to make a serious attempt at several players like Von Miller. Until we actually see them make an impact move, we should not expect one.
Even if they do find some way to get a good pass rusher, which is just getting more unlikely, it will happen because they botched the Gregory situation. The Chris Berman style of bumbling, stumbling management is far too often how things get done in Dallas.
We discussed this idea in greater detail on this week’s episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our episodes! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
If we take a step back from things and consider the prospects for the team this year, the Cowboys are not at all a disaster. A case for optimism can be made around Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott being in better health this year. CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz are two known quantities in the passing game. Salvaging the Lawrence situation certainly helps while Micah Parsons is just a stud. Having retained Dan Quinn will help the defense try to maintain the significant improvement we saw last season. The roster is clearly a work in progress, but that is normal for this time of year. Being in the NFC East is a hole card, as all the rivals still have significant warts. It is possible that Dallas will still get to double digits in the win column and into the playoffs.
It is still hard to feel any great deal of optimism overall, because this offseason has put the dysfunction at the top in the spotlight. In addition to the frequent missteps with the players, head coach Mike McCarthy is fighting for his job this year. It is very unhelpful for him to have so much uncertainty about the roster even if it is early, and it certainly seems it will not look as loaded as the 2021 team that failed to live up to expectations. Now there is a built-in tension between McCarthy and his bosses that could just make things worse.
If you want a general prediction for the coming season, it is that it will be awkward. One of your defensive leaders is feeling disrespected. Don’t forget that Prescott went through some similar things in the protracted and unnecessary struggle to get his long-term deal completed. The other players notice this stuff. With the way McCarthy is being treated, the ownership is now at odds with everyone else.
Oddly, while Jerry Jones was instrumental in creating all these problems, he could do a lot to fix things if he puts his mind to it and works at smoothing over some of the rough parts of the relationships involved. His personal charm is still a strangely powerful thing. Based on reports, it was his intervention that helped retain Lawrence, and almost got Gregory back in the fold. He deserves credit for that. And if the team does win enough games, the problems this offseason will begin to fade in people’s minds, both inside and outside the organization. While that will not provide much incentive to make the needed changes in how business is conducted inside the Star, it is better than the alternative of having things crater and attempting a real rebuild.
It is possible to cheer the team on the field while pointing out what needs to be fixed. That may be the best mindset to take into this season. And we can still hope that they still can get things right as free agency progresses, then look to the draft which has gone well in recent years. It is hard to set our expectations in the moment, but we can still hope for positive developments. We need some.