With it being less than a month away from the NFL draft, the Dallas Cowboys have had a phenomenal offseason. An organization that typically gets a lot of flak from their fanbase and media across the league for their lack of aggressiveness and activity, have been doing exactly the opposite this offseason.
The front office came into this offseason with a tough task; they needed to bring back several key starters on the defensive side of the ball, as well as find a way to improve the team so they could make a deeper playoff push in the 2023 season. The Cowboys were able to bring back essentially all of their key defensive free agents in S Donovan Wilson, LB Leighton Vander Esch, NT Johnathan Hankins, and DE Dante Fowler on team-friendly contracts.
- S Donovan Wilson: three years worth $21 million with a max of $24 million through incentives.
- LB Leighton Vander Esch: two years worth $8 million with a max of $10 million through incentives.
- NT Johnathan Hankins: one-year veteran salary benefit contract worth 1.165 million in salary and a $152,500 signing bonus.
- DE Dante Fowler: one-year deal with $1.5 million salary and a signing bonus of $1 million. It has a max value of $4.25 million through incentives.
It is fair to assume that the Cowboys were able to retain all of these defensive weapons on team-friendly contracts because the impact of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The Cowboys being able to keep him in Dallas, despite receiving head coach offers from other teams, gives the defense a sense of continuity and allows them to continue building something great.
The front office also made several decisions on the offensive side of the ball that will turn out to be wise for the team. They were able to rework the deal of LT Tyron Smith, bringing him back without affecting the cap number as much as it would have. His new contract is a one-year deal worth $6 million with the max value of $17 million through playing time and playoff win incentives. It is a great deal for the front office as they bring back a veteran member of the offensive line, and designed the contract in a way where Smith has to stay healthy to make the most of his money. The team also made the difficult decision to move on from fan-favorite RB Ezekiel Elliott by releasing him. A move that may have been difficult from an emotional standpoint, but was the right decision from a financial standpoint.
If the Cowboys made all of these moves and had done nothing else, many fans would have considered it a successful offseason. They brought back all of their key players on the defense without breaking the bank on any of them. However, the Cowboys also made two of their biggest moves in recent memory through trades.
The first move the Cowboys made for an outside player this offseason was trading for Pro Bowl CB Stephon Gilmore from the Indianapolis Colts. Not only was this an incredible move for the Cowboys because it filled their CB2 position across from Trevon Diggs, but they also gave virtually nothing for him. They sent the Colts a fifth-round compensatory pick in exchange for the talented cornerback. Not only will Gilmore be likely the best CB2 across the entire NFL this season, but he is able to provide valuable leadership to the secondary, and can mentor Diggs into being an even better cornerback than he already is.
The Cowboys didn’t just stop with that move though, they followed it up by trading for the speedy veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks, from the Houston Texans. Cooks has felt like a great fit for QB Dak Prescott for a while now, and the Cowboys showed interest at the NFL trade deadline in the 2022 season, although no deal came from it. The Cowboys got their receiver in Cooks for incredible value this offseason. They sent the Houston Texans a fifth-round pick in the 2023 draft, and a sixth-round pick in the 2024 draft. Trading for Cooks gives the Cowboys a reliable veteran who can create separation for the Dak Prescott-led Cowboys offense and will be a great target behind WR CeeDee Lamb.
Not only have the Cowboys brought back their players on team-friendly contracts, giving them continuity, they also improved their roster through good-value trades. The Dallas Cowboys front office deserves an A+ grade for what they have done leading up to the draft, as they have had the best offseason across the NFL.