The Dallas Cowboys usually pick from free agency’s leftovers during the month of March. 2023 seems to be the year of Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones, as he’s put himself in the early conversation for executive of the year.
Dallas made it their mission to re-sign players like Donovan Wilson, Leighton Vander Esch, Cooper Rush, Dante Fowler, and others who were key players to the team’s success in 2022. Those are the moves that are “on-brand” for the Cowboys every year
What turned heads were the moves to acquire veteran talents like Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks. It caught the attention of NFL.com as being two highly graded offseason trades. NFL Insider Marc Sessler broke the moves down.
Brandin Cooks Trade—Cowboys Grade (A)
It was Lamb who begged the front office to “surround” Dak Prescott with weapons, telling the Around The NFL podcast during Super Bowl week: “You go look at the Eagles, and they’ve got three receivers, a great tight end group, they run the ball well, the O-line is very phenomenal. You look at San Fran, they surrounded their quarterback and you get success ultimately. I mean we’ve got just as many weapons, but that extra player, all it takes is one. You can be so close to the Super Bowl and it can be a deciding factor.”
Cooks thrives in the slot and outside and allows Dallas to go elsewhere at No. 26 overall. The 29-year-old receiver has been traded a record-tying four times, but Bill Belichick, Sean McVay and Bill O’Brien all pined for his services after Sean Payton drafted Cooks in New Orleans back in 2014.
CeeDee Lamb did mention the Cowboys needed to add another weapon on offense, and he got his wish. Dallas targeted Cooks as someone they wanted since November of 2022. There were reported talks with the Houston Texans, but they quickly resolved because their asking price was too high.
Flash forward to March of 2023, and the Cowboys unquestionably won the trade here, getting Cooks for a low cost and restructuring his contract to be even less of a cap hit this season.
Dak had the highest tight window throw rate in the NFL last year. The Cowboys' trade for Brandin Cooks addresses one of Dallas' biggest issues: the lack of separation.— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) March 22, 2023
Both @fieldyates and I are fans of Dallas' offseason--discussed on this week's pod: https://t.co/25po4Tj9rF pic.twitter.com/uo3UnIC8mz
Not only does Cooks bring veteran leadership, but he is considered “Dak-friendly,” which has been the offseason goal since losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs. Cooks is one of the best receivers in getting separation which the Cowboys wideouts struggled with behind Lamb on the depth chart.
Getting a receiver like Cooks on offense takes Dallas out of the mix for Odell Beckham Jr, and they might be with the better receiver. OBJ is the flashier name, but “the Archer” has proven to stay healthier over his career and sustain his production.
Stephon Gilmore Trade—Cowboys Grade (A+)
The deal for Gilmore is nothing short of a coup for the Cowboys. Set to line up across from Trevon Diggs, the veteran defender arrives as a heady, battle-tested corner poised to thrive under coordinator Dan Quinn. Gilmore is 32, but he’s coming off another solid campaign and boasts Pro Football Focus’ highest coverage grade among corners since 2018. He promises to fit right in on a Dallas unit that sees itself as one of the NFC’s finest.
The move for Cooks was great for the offense, but the Cowboys’ trade for Gilmore puts this offseason over the top. Acquiring a top 10 cornerback in the NFL, whose PFF coverage grade in 2022 (81.1) was Gilmore’s best since 2019, is notable for the Dallas defense.
To the average fan, trading for an aging cornerback on one of the league’s worst defenses last year looks like a move that barely moves the needle. However, Gilmore was not only the best defender on the Indianapolis Colts a season ago but remains one of the top man coverage corners in the NFL, which fits perfectly in Dan Quinn’s defense.
Like Cooks, Gilmore brings veteran tutelage to help young corners like Trevon Diggs, Kelvin Joseph, Nahshon Wright, and Izzy Mukuamu develop. He already mentioned teaching Diggs a few things, which can only benefit Dallas’ All-Pro cornerback entering his fourth season.
Hopefully, if the Cowboys get to the postseason for the third time in a row, they won’t need to rotate five cornerbacks to find one capable starter now that Gilmore is around.