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History suggests the Cowboys roster won’t change much before the season starts

The 53 men that the Cowboys will use are likely already in Dallas.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Better late than never. The Dallas Cowboys signing a few players in July or August would presumably be an improvement over signing nobody. And Stephen Jones has expressed that Dallas will add more bodies before the season kicks off.

If we look at what the Cowboys have done in previous years, there is truth to what Jones is saying. Quantity over quality has been the strategy in recent offseasons. So, while they might be buyers in the coming months, there is a low chance they sign a starter.

History suggests that Dallas’ roster won’t change much before the season starts

NFL: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For a fun, but ultimately pointless, exercise, the best remaining free agents include:

  • Akiem Hicks (DT)
  • Odell Beckham Jr. (WR)
  • Duane Brown (OT)
  • Rob Gronkowski (TE)
  • Alexander Johnson (LB)
  • Anthony Barr (LB)

And the reason that this exercise is pointless is because there is a very low chance that Dallas signs any of these names. Instead, players like Zach Kerr, Damon Arnette, and Skai Moore should be on fans’ radar.

Because Stephen Jones is likely telling the truth. In every year since 2010, Dallas has signed a free agent in the months between May to August, aka from now to the start of the season. Even last year the Cowboys added four names during these months, including Malik Hooker.

You can take Jones at face value. He will sign a couple of names before the season starts. But the difference between “activity,” as Jones put it, and quality signings is different. There is a much higher chance that Stephen Jones was referencing the former in his quote.

Malik Hooker is an anomaly. He outproduced what the Cowboys paid him to do, as his contract of one-year, $920,000 was essentially a veteran minimum. Kyron Brown, the cornerback signed two days before Hooker, received a significantly larger contract.

Hooker ended up being a great end-of-the-offseason signing. Unfortunately, Dallas fans cannot point to this as the norm. Between May to August, Dallas typically signs end-of-the-bench players that will either never see the field or get cut before the season starts.

Let’s look at the names that Dallas has signed since 2011, by month:

  • May: Johnnie Dixon, Andy Dalton, Cameron Erving, Tyler Clutts, A.J. Jenkins, Laron Byrd, Danny McCray, Ryan Williams, Anthony Hargrove
  • June: Reggie Davis, Uche Nwaneri, Dante Rosario, Eric Frampton, Pat McQuistan
  • July: Malik Hooker, Kyron Brown, Alfred Morris, Luke McCown, Ronnie Hillman, Justin Durant (re-signed), Cameron Bradfield, Keith Smith, Dallas Walker, Dezmon Briscoe, Demetress Bell, Landon Cohen, George Selvie, Marcus Spears, Doug Free, Kyle Kosier
  • August: Lirim Hajrullahu, Everson Griffen, Pace Murphy, Kony Ealy, Ben Malena, Cody Clay, Brandon Barden, Jonathan Brown, Kenneth Boatright, Asa Watson, Stephen Goodin, Phillip Tanner, Jack Crawford, Korey Toomer, Brandon Moore, Brett Maher, Jason Vega, Gerald Sensabaugh, Jason Hatcher

You might notice names like Gerald Sensabaugh, Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, and Doug Free at the end of July and August and think that Dallas found significant contributors in later months of the offseason. This is not the case. 2011, when these four players were signed, was the lockout year. The offseason didn’t start until late July, which makes these signings essentially irrelevant for our study.

If you want some encouragement, Dallas has actually improved their late-offseason signings in recent years. Malik Hooker, Andy Dalton, Cam Erving, and Everson Griffen were all signed within the last two offseasons. While this isn't a star-studded group, these four are some of the best names in the list above. Which should be encouraging to a degree.

The issue is that Dallas might have once again waited too long. Even in the later months of the offseason, earlier is better. As a percentage of the names signed, May and June see significantly better talent than July and August. Especially when you remove the 2011 lockout signings.

The Cowboys are at the end of May and there are no rumors or rumblings of note heading into June. Maybe the T.Y. Hilton or Anthony Barr rumors have more credibility than we are aware of, but probably not. If they are not able to add talent by the end of June, read the names in July and August again without the 2011 players. It is incredibly unlikely they add a contributor that provides serviceable snaps. It has happened, but don't count on it.

As noted, by the size above, July and August are the Cowboys’ prime spending months. Since 2011, there have been six offseasons where Dallas didn’t sign anyone in May or June and then signed at least one player in July or August. Jerry and Stephen are patient.

Here the Cowboys are. There has been little activity through the first few months of the offseason outside of player retentions. But Jerry and Stephen have both assured fans that the Cowboys are not done adding talent.

And this is a true statement. There is an incredibly high chance that they add at least one player over the next few months, especially in August and July. However, don’t expect these signings to change the landscape of the team. They are likely going to be fighting for a roster spot. But at least it’s activity, right?