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Success with bargain-bin free agents in 2021 might be a detriment to the 2022 Dallas Cowboys

Nothing makes something feel right like success. The Cowboys had some success in free agency in 2021.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Better lucky than good, right?

We have all stumbled into something at one point in our lives and been better off for it. Maybe it was something in your workplace or in your personal life. Whatever the case, we will take all positive results however they are achieved.

Such is the case for the Dallas Cowboys as well. If they are good and winning games then ultimately we do not care how that is happening, right? Wins are what matters most and as long as they come then peace lives throughout the kingdom.

This is something I discussed on the latest episode of The Ocho on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

Not to talk out of the other side of my mouth, but the process does matter a bit if we are being technical. You can luck into something one time, maybe even a few times, but you cannot count on that being the case.

It is possible that the Cowboys might be counting on a bit of luck when it comes to free agency.

Success with bargain bin free agents in 2021 might be a detriment to the 2022 Dallas Cowboys

We are less than two weeks away from free agency and when it arrives the Cowboys will very likely stand by and watch all of the action from afar. Tale as old as time.

The Cowboys are notoriously known for avoiding spending big in free agency and believe that value can be found later in the process after sifting through the bargain bin of players. You can find an example to prove any narrative but you don’t have to look far for one to justify this logic.

Jayron Kearse is a name at the front of every Cowboys’ fans mind as most want to see the team bring him back. Kearse was a part of last year’s free agency crop that yielded several notable contributors which goes to show that Stephen Jones knows what he is doing, right?

Here are the notable external free agents who Dallas signed to one- or two-year deals in 2021:

  • Ty Nsekhe
  • Jake McQuaide
  • Carlos Watkins
  • Brent Urban
  • Tarrell Basham
  • Keanu Neal
  • Malik Hooker
  • Damontae Kazee
  • Jayron Kearse
  • Bryan Anger
  • Jeremy Sprinkle

As mentioned. Kearse shined bright for Dallas and may get a second contract with the team as a result. Carlos Watkins was also a nice find and Brent Urban played well before getting hurt. Tarrell Basham had a few moments, as did Malik Hooker, and Bryan Anger was a Pro Bowler! Shout out to the bargain bin!

Recency bias is indeed a very real thing which could serve towards the Cowboys doubling down on their already firmly-entrenched line of thought. But what happened last year isn’t the norm for this team, it is the outlier.

Here are the notable external free agents who Dallas signed to one- or two-year deals in 2020:

  • Gerald McCoy
  • Maurice Canady
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Blake Bell
  • Dontari Poe
  • Aldon Smith
  • Saivion Smith
  • Daryl Worley
  • Andy Dalton

It should be mentioned that Dallas also signed kicker Greg Zuerlein in 2020 although that was a three-year deal, but the move has been a shaky one.

Aldon Smith did play well during that 2020 season, but things fell apart near the end. We will never truly know what Gerald McCoy could have been because he was unfortunately injured before the season ever began, and Andy Dalton was thrust into a situation where he had no real chance to do anything notable.

Even factoring in Smith, McCoy, and Dalton though, is there a bargain-bin move that the Cowboys made two years ago that looks good today? Even a single one? The fact that there isn’t goes to show how this philosophy is far from full-proof. For further context let’s go back another year.

Here are the notable external free agents who Dallas signed to one- or two-year deals in 2019:

  • Kerry Hyder
  • Randall Cobb
  • George Iloka
  • Christian Covington

Randall Cobb was serviceable for the Cowboys during the 2019 season and while Kerry Hyder had success after his time in Dallas that obviously did not come with a star on his helmet. While another move was not technically a free agent acquisition, the Cowboys did trade for Robert Quinn during the 2019 offseason and he turned in a great season for them with 11.5 sacks.

All told there are 24 names that we have listed here (excluding Quinn) over the course of the last three years and the best of them is easily Jayron Kearse. What is troublesome about that is that he and the Carlos Watkins-type impact that Dallas got from other players last season might justify the overall process that has largely been ineffective.

The Cowboys deserve credit for finding free agent contributors a year ago, but they do not deserve to be able to stand on a mountain and proclaim themselves geniuses that finally saw their line of logic take hold. 2021 was clearly more of an exception to the rule than the rule itself.

Unfortunately it seems like they might not necessarily be willing to admit that.