Truth be told, the offseason should already be somewhat palatable as Dallas Cowboys fans. The team we root for is coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, has a 24-10 record in that time, vanquished a lot of ghosts from the past over this most recent season, and has most of its essential core returning for 2023. Those are all objectively good things.
We discussed this overall idea 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.
As true as that is though, it is frustrating that the season ended a few weeks short of when we all wanted it to, and there is no parade for the Cowboys for the 27th year in a row. It is often said that multiple things can be true so we can live and operate in a world where there is indeed more than one fact.
Let’s explore five different facts (or fact-ish things).
Contrary to popular belief, the Dallas Cowboys are in a very good place
The Dallas Cowboys have earned the benefit of the doubt based on the past couple of seasons. They haven’t earned complete and total trust, but they have earned some slack in that department.
If you look through the BTB archives back to August and September of last year, there was plenty of doubt about the team. Whatever small army of believers that did exist quickly left camp when Dak Prescott fractured his thumb in Week 1.
The Cowboys had a lot of problems that they made for themselves, but you know what they did? They thought and fought their way out of them. It’s hard to give them credit for digging out of a self-induced hole, but that they dug out of it is notable.
It feels like we’ve lost a grip on this in the aftermath of the playoff loss to San Francisco because of how disappointing it was. That is totally fair. But it remains true that the Cowboys, in a lot of ways, overachieved in 2022. This certainly suggests that regression could come in different ways in 2023, but the Cowboys impressed almost on a weekly basis this past season and it feels like for the most part people agree with that.
While we can sit and quibble about who deserves the majority of credit for the year we just saw, it sort of continues to get lost that it happened. Critics are so focused on how Mike McCarthy, Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore, or whoever else is the problem - they all have their flaws - but somebody must have been very good at their job for them to do what they did, right? They aren’t this band of incompetent misfits that fell into what they did.
The Cowboys took a step back last year in terms of how they built their roster and still took a step forward in terms of how their season ended. It wasn’t the ultimate goal, but it was progress. That is noteworthy.
The Eagles lost the Super Bowl but should still be considered a standard for Dallas to follow
Last week I wrote something for SBNation.com about how the Eagles had the best offseason of any team in the NFL. They lost the Super Bowl, but that remains true.
Obviously I did not enjoy writing that, but how can you deny it? The Eagles went all-in (more on that term in a second) and lost the ultimate game to one of the greatest quarterbacks ever by three points. They damn near did the whole thing.
But the Eagles, contrary to what Jerry Jones seems to think, are hardly all-in. It is very true that they will have to deal with things that they have not had to in terms of A.J. Brown’s contract coming into play on the salary cap, giving out a new deal to Jalen Hurts, their staff getting picked apart (offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is already headed to become the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is headed to lead the Arizona Cardinals), so on and so forth, but they have the 10th and 30th overall picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. They have a lot of talent on rookie contracts still. They did not sell out for one single season.
It would be incredible to see the Cowboys approach this offseason as aggressively as we saw the Eagles approach last year’s. They are a template for how that needs to be done in today’s day and age.
It is a good time to be a contending team that is in the NFC
We can quibble about who deserves the most credit among the top names at The Star, but obviously Dak Prescott is squarely in that group. There is also a lot to criticize Dak Prescott for in terms of how last season went, but there is also a lot that he deserves credit for as well. Both things can be true.
However you feel about Dak, it is difficult to say he is any worse than the third QB in the NFC.
Jalen Hurts will command a lot of votes as number one. But who is number two? The contenders, before free agency and the draft obviously, are the aforementioned Dak Prescott and... Kirk Cousins? Matthew Stafford, maybe? Daniel Jones, perhaps? Aaron Rodgers if he sticks around? Kyler Murray if he returns to form? Brock Purdy, if he is even the full-time starter for the whole season?
The point is that you can make the argument that the Cowboys have the second-best quarterback in the conference, and while we are at it the second-best defensive player in the conference in Micah Parsons (that is if you rank Nick Bosa higher and recent hardware makes that fair). Again, the offseason will shake things up a bit, but it is difficult to see how the Cowboys don’t enter the season with one of the better quarterbacks in the conference and that is objectively a very exciting thing.
The days of the division being an afterthought are certainly over
As true as it is that the Cowboys have one of the better quarterbacks in the conference, it is also true that the NFC East is no longer a wasteland. The six games within it are all now very real.
The Eagles are obviously a very good team, and while the Giants also overachieved a bit in 2023 they are clearly on the way to relevance (they are already here, duh) once more. Heck, even the Washington franchise has things a bit more together than they have in the past and that is saying something.
As a whole, the NFC East picked up a lot of attention for having three playoff teams this past season, but it was forgotten that they had two in the tournament the year prior in Dallas and Philadelphia. So we are now looking at a foursome that has two teams riding two-year streaks of playoff appearances with another having just made it, the latter of which boasting the Coach of the Year in the process in Brian Daboll.
Dak Prescott’s career record within the division is well-known, and while it is fair to assume that will partly hold up, the Cowboys can no longer count on the Giants and Commanders as four easy wins.
The biggest Cowboys things of this offseason will have to do with people already in the building
While it will be paramount for the Cowboys to approach the offseason in serious fashion by way of aggressive moves in free agency, by way of trade, and throughout the draft, the most important thing on the docket is right up their alley. They are in-house players.
We are all well-aware that CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs are both eligible for extensions beginning this offseason. The Cowboys told us all of last year that they were preparing for this day which means that we need to see them take care of it sooner rather than later.
The Cowboys have some time on Lamb as he is a first-round pick. They will very likely pick up his fifth-year option this offseason and potentially iron out a deal at training camp like they have cornerstone players in the past.
That option does not exist for Trevon Diggs, though. If the Cowboys do not get a deal done with him this offseason, then he will enter 2023 (if he doesn’t hypothetically hold out) in a contract year. Diggs’ comments about his brother last week made the rounds, but another thing that we asked him about in that interview was the state of his contract. There were no quotes to be had on that subject because he didn’t really answer any questions (he was polite about it, it just clearly was not a subject he was going to get into... you can watch the whole interview here if you’d like).
It has been a minute since the Cowboys handed out a second contract to a second-round pick. Before you rack your brain too hard, it was Jaylon Smith and we all know how that worked out. The team’s second-round pick one year before him was Randy Gregory and he got a second contract with the Cowboys, but that was obviously a unique situation.
The last second contract that the Cowboys gave to a second-round pick that would be met with approval was DeMarcus Lawrence and he was selected in 2014. It is critical that the Cowboys get this right and that they do not waste time in the process of trying to do so.