The 2023 offseason continues to feel like an alternate dimension for the Dallas Cowboys. For years they have not made any splash moves to acquire outside talent before the draft. They would let free agency play out for a few weeks and then go bargain shopping among the players that were left. Fans would suffer angst over the failure to utilize the full array of resources, especially cap space, to improve the team. It never felt like they were truly committed to winning now, putting too much focus on two or three years in the future.
Not now. This year has been incredibly busy through the first week of NFL free agency. They did not even wait for the official start of free agency to make a big move, trading for CB Stephon Gilmore. They later added WR Brandin Cooks, also via trade, and took steps to retain key starters like RB Tony Pollard, RT Terence Steele, S Donovan Wilson, and LB Leighton Vander Esch, as well as some role players like backup QB Cooper Rush and ST ace C.J. Goodwin.
Now they have started signing some outside free agents like OL Chuma Edoga and RB Ronald Jones, and have also brought back RB Rico Dowdle, who has shown a lot of promise for them the past couple of years, but been hampered by injury. To make these moves, they have been aggressively restructuring contracts and made the emotionally difficult but necessary decision to release Ezekiel Elliott to have the cap space to do all this.
The team is getting closer and closer to having no pressing needs in the draft, just opportunities to get better. Here is a look, position by position, at what remains to be done, if anything, before the draft rolls around, and how they may use their current seven picks.
Re-signing Rush gives them the same quarterback room as last year. They will probably take a late-round QB or sign a UDFA for camp and possible future development.
Had he been healthy, Dowdle might have been RB3 last year. With him, Jones, and Malik Davis the team may already have Tony Pollard’s backups, but this is a clear place the team will look to add talent in the draft. With no crucial holes to fill, this could be an early pick.
Cooks was huge. If MIchael Gallup is able to return to full health and the way he was playing before his 2021 injury, they have a very good top three with CeeDee Lamb. But the depth behind them is questionable. If there is a late free agent addition, even after the draft, this could where they go. But they should definitely take a WR in the draft. Unfortunately, the WR group is weak this year, so Will McClay will have to be on top of his game.
The expected departure of Dalton Schultz in free agency means the team is betting on Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot to step up. They need depth behind them, and this is another position to watch for a little insurance vie free agency as well as one they are likely to invest some decent draft capital.
Edoga may be penciled in as the starting LG, and at the worst should be needed depth. But OL, specifically a LG candidate, is one of the more important positions in the draft for the team to add talent.
Although the move of Isaac Alarcon to the defensive side of the ball is interesting, the team is still weak at DT, particularly the run-stuffing NT type they never seem to invest in. A possible move they might make is to bring back Johnathan Hankins (which they have not formally done at the time of this writing). They are reportedly interested in doing that, and have already re-signed Dante Fowler as well. They just do not invest much draft capital in the DT position, so we shouldn’t have out hopes up.
Vander Esch was a great retention. Micah Parsons splits time as an off-ball LB and a pass rusher, so he is at least partially a part of the mix. Depth is a bit of an issue. Damone Clark showed a lot of promise, but there is not much behind him. Bobby Wagner’s name keeps getting linked to Dallas, but his likely cost is a bit of a deterrent. They could add another free agent, but could also wait for the draft to further address the position.
Between Gilmore and Wilson, they already have set themselves up for the draft here. A quality defensive back is always worth taking, but they don’t need immediate impact. Isn’t that nice?
They will have to sign a long snapper. ESPN’s Todd Archer has reported that the team may have its eye on Trent Sieg, and Matt Overton is a fallback for them. They also should be in the market for a placekicker with Tristan Vizcaino the only one currently on the roster. These are not positions that are normally drafted, but if they don’t have another kicker in by the draft, they might be tempted to use their seventh rounder if a good college leg is available.
While there are still things the team can do in free agency, there is nothing they really have to do at this point. That is simply unprecedented for the Cowboys. This continues to be a preseason like none in recent memory, in a very good way.