It’s the offseason which makes it the perfect time for fun conversations about team building and football philosophy. In the fall our attention is occupied by who the next opponent is, which players might miss the next game with an injury, and how individual players and groups are playing, but in the spring and summer, we can occupy our minds with things like draft pick values, cap space, and “championship windows”.
In that vein, Jason Fitzgerald of overthecap.com put together a very simple chart that is an absolute perfect representation of who the Cowboys are as a franchise.
A quick look at how much teams have riding on the 2023 season pic.twitter.com/IEkLYVik6F— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) June 15, 2023
In this chart, Fitzgerald is cross referencing a team’s projected 2024 cap situation, with the level of projected roster turnover that team is expected to be subject to in 2024 based on the number of significant unrestricted free agents they’re projected to have.
As Fitzgerald describes it, teams in the top left, like the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins, are “All-In” for this year. All three of these teams “make sense” in this quadrant, The Jets just traded for a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers who will turn 40 this year, the Dolphins are in the fourth year of Tua Tagovailoa’s rookie contract, as he carries only a $9.6 million cap hit this year, and the Bills have been nipping at the heels of the Chiefs in the AFC for a couple of years, they want to get over the top.
Teams to the far right may not be “tanking” but they definitely don’t have much riding on 2023, New England is an interesting part of the conversation because of the age of their head coach, but the Bears just traded the #1 pick for a huge bounty, the Texans are really in the first year of a true rebuild after who knows what the last few years have been. Even the next few teams, Washington (in the middle of an ownership change), Tennessee (big roster transition on offense happening in 2023), and the Colts (new head coach, brand new quarterback) make a ton of sense in that area.
But the team with the placement on the chart that fits their style of team building better than anyone’s?
The Dallas Football Cowboys.
Right in the middle.
This isn’t necessarily a criticism as much as it is a statement of fact. The Cowboys are not, and will likely never be “all-in” on a season, but they also will never allow themselves to enter a season as complete non-factors.
Even in a year when they make moves that observers might point to and say “they’re going for it this year!”, like trading draft picks for a former Pro Bowl wide receiver in Brandin Cooks and former All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore, they are going to prefer players with more than one season left on their contracts (like Amari Cooper in 2018 and Cooks this year), and they’re often going to renegotiate the contracts of those players to lower their cap and cash costs (Robert Quinn in 2019, and again Cooks this year).
In summary, the Cowboys will be contenders in 2023, they have a great quarterback, and a roster full of high level players at almost every position. But their approach indicates that they haven’t treated 2023 like their only opportunity to win big, and to be honest as long as Dak Prescott is their quarterback, that opportunity will exist.