In recent history, the Dallas Cowboys have avoided the first wave of free agency besides signing their own. Jerry Jones and Co. wait for the big deals to be handed out before picking up the pieces that flew under the radar.
Some of their most important signings of the Mike McCarthy era came after the first few days. Safety Jayron Kearse was signed eight days after free agency started in 2021, and punter Bryan Anger signed almost a month later.
A safety and punter aren’t the most critical positions on a football team, but for the Cowboys, spending money in free agency is supposed to plug holes at places with good talent that don’t cost a lot.
Dallas freed up cap space earlier in the week by restructuring contracts for Dak Prescott and Zack Martin. Other moves can provide financial flexibility, but it seems like the money would be used on their own before going towards outside free agents. David Moore of the Dallas Morning News reports.
The move is about creating space to retain some of their own players more than it’s about making a big splash once free agency opens next week.
So who would be getting all of the money?
It’s time to sign a long-term extension with Donovan Wilson
A name to monitor within the Cowboys organization is safety, Donovan Wilson. No. 6 is coming off of a career year in which he played every game, recorded 101 tackles, five sacks, seven tackles for loss, one interception, and nine quarterback hits.
Wilson was named by Dan Quinn as someone who would break out in 2022, and he couldn’t have been more correct. Being a sixth-round draft pick, Wilson is looking for a payday, considering he’s only made just over $3.5 million over four seasons in Dallas.
Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News tweeted that Stephen Jones and Will McClay met with Wilson’s representatives at the Senior Bowl in February. In an interview, Stephen Jones talked about wanting to keep the safety group together if possible.
Another insider echoes the same sentiment with the Cowboys looking to zero in on Wilson as a top priority before the free agency window opens. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports.
Strongest retention efforts
Defensive back Jonathan Jones is an ideal Patriot, so perhaps New England works something out there in short order. And watch for Dallas to try to figure something out with safety Donovan Wilson, a valuable player for Dan Quinn’s defense.
In Fowler’s article, co-written with Dan Graziano, he talks about all scenarios surrounding free agents and where players could land. The Cowboys aren’t named a ton in the article, but mentioning this means something might be cooking behind the scenes.
A contract extension for Tony Pollard might be on hold
The Cowboys used their franchise tag to retain running back Tony Pollard for another season. By all accounts, the team would like to work out a long-term extension, but the tag allows negotiations to continue into July without other teams bidding for Pollard.
Dallas has a history of using the franchise tag and waiting until the final minute to get an extension done. When wide receiver Dez Bryant was tagged in March of 2015, both sides didn’t agree on a new deal until July 15, very close to the deadline date.
Fowler reports the Cowboys could wait until the running back market irons itself out and work around a long-term deal with the numbers handed out to free agents.
As for lead back types, the Bears’ Montgomery is probably the top one remaining. But it’s not a position for which teams are eager to pay, and a flooded market isn’t helping. Look for the Raiders, Giants and Cowboys to let this free agent RB market sort itself out and set the eventual prices for Jacobs, Barkley and Pollard in extension talks this summer.
The market for a running back is not what it used to be, and it’s a position that statistically devalues quickly. Dallas is one of the few teams who have invested heavily in the position. They currently have almost $27 million tied to Ezekiel Elliott and Pollard.
The number will decrease significantly if they decide to release Elliott or restructure his deal. If the Cowboys can work out a three-year contract with Pollard where his average salary is under $10 million a season, that would also help.
Dallas has until July 17, 2023, to negotiate a new deal with Pollard.