Free Agency and the Cowboys, a New Approach

posted in: Dallas Cowboys, NFL | 16
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Free agency is not a place to build a team, but rather a gap-filling part of the yearlong talent acquisition process. It appears that the Dallas Cowboys have finally learned this. In fairness, this change has come slowly since the disastrous draft of 2009 forced everyone at Valley Ranch not named Jerry Jones to adjust their focus.

Jerry and Steven Jones

The good news for Cowboys fans is that even Jerry seems to have finally caught on. In the first 10 days of free agency, the Cowboys have shown something in this year’s free agency that we haven’t seen around these parts for most of the last two decades…RESTRAINT!!

There have been several examples of this RESTRAINT in free agency this offseason and they have ranged from painful to prudent, pragmatic to phenomenal.

Here is my take on the major free agency decisions so far.

PAINFUL

Demarcus Ware leaves via Free AgencyCutting Demarcus Ware hurt! No matter why the decision was made, this was painful for everyone involved. It hurt Jerry Jones to part ways with the guy he took over the protestations of HOF coach Bill Parcells. You know it hurt him because Jerry reminded us who really wanted D. Ware in that 2005 draft every chance he got. Judging by the visceral reaction on social media and sports radio it really hurt the fans. Even those of us that understood the financial aspects of the decision were saddened to see that such a class act on & off the field would finish his career somewhere else. It hurt Demarcus Ware, especially the way that Jerry Jones made the issue so public at the combine. Now I’m sure it hurts him quite a bit less now that he’s cashing the Bowlen family’s checks to the tune of $20 million guaranteed.

All that being said, it was the right decision for both the team and the player under the current circumstances. On top of that it was a lot less painful for me to know he wasn’t going to an NFC East rival

PRUDENT

Jason Hatcher leaves via free agencyThe best example of this newfound prudence: letting Jason Hatcher go. Big Daddy (as DL coach Marinelli nicknamed him) had an outstanding, Pro-bowl 2013 season for the Cowboys in his contract year. On top of that he emerged as a true leader in the locker room and on the field. Why then is letting him go a prudent decision? Smart teams Don’t Pay Age! The NFL is too violent and too demanding. As a rule, older players break down more and they cost more making them doubly risky in a salary cap environment. From all indications, the deal Jason Hatcher received from Little Danny Snyder was far above what he had heard in his visits. So much so that he agreed before he had even made the visit to Washington. He simply showed up to take his physical & get his signing bonus.

I’m happy for Jason Hatcher, but even happier that the Cowboys didn’t panic and invest this much in a good player over 30. I am the happiest that if it doesn’t work out, Washington will be the team with the dead money on their salary cap!

PRAGMATIC

Weeden comes via free agencyOver the past few days I have seen all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth with the signing of Brandon Weeden. I think this is overblown. Has Weeden been a good QB? Obviously not. If he had been then he wouldn’t be available, but let’s look at this reasonably. The Dallas Cowboys got a QB they had rated as a late 2nd round talent just two years ago for only an extra net $75k in cap space. How many of these same fans are screaming for the Cowboys to invest a premium pick on a QB in this draft? The pickup here isn’t the big story though. This signals a seismic shift in how the Cowboys handle talent acquisition. They are approaching free agency now as a way to back fill holes on the roster so they can draft more purely for the best players. More importantly, they no longer seem  consumed with can their pickups be marketed but rather can they be obtained in a cost-effective way.

This is a well-reasoned flyer for almost nothing. Besides, Cleveland hasn’t exactly been a stable place to groom a young QB so there may still be a chance that Weeden will be a productive QB in the future. Pickups like Mincey and McClain fall under this same category

PHENOMENAL

Henry Melton added via free agencyJason Hatcher’s signing with Washington left a gaping hole in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line. The need there was critical and the only high-end option in free agency was Henry Melton. As you know by now, the Cowboys got their man. Getting Melton was necessary to prevent panic on May 8th when the Cowboys go on the clock. What makes this a phenomenal signing is the fact that even in the face of a dire need, the team did not panic and overpay. Of course, there were mitigating circumstances with recovery from an ACL injury and a recent arrest (for more on that read this). There are always issues when a Pro Bowl talent is allowed to hit the market.

The best part of this is that in the past, the Cowboys would have paid Melton without regards to any of this and he probably would have received enough of Jerry’s money to make Jason Hatcher’s deal look small. That didn’t happen. The Cowboys are only on the hook for one year at around $3 million if this doesn’t pan out. If it does, they have a Pro Bowl talent at the fulcrum position for their defensive scheme for another three years.

So, while no one is ready to crown Jerry Jones as the Executive of the Year, this new approach to team building has me far more optimistic about the long-term health of my favorite sports team.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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  • californy

    This is how I see FA market. I see buying at this Free agency market as a failure of this team ability to draft and developed players.

  • californy

    This is how I see the FA market, The players are specialist at best. I dont want specialist, I want an all down player. Specialist should never be drafted in the top 5 rd or
    drafted at all. Specialist are part time player and should be develop
    from undrafted FA.. Beasley is one of those players so was Miles Austin.

    There talent in the undrafted ranks. Atlanta has a undrafted LB who last year had over 120 tackles on the season, Brufict a player in year 2 in the undrafted ranks lead the nFL in tackles last year. Flemming LB year one with Indy also had 120 plus tackles on the season,

    The top 2 Rookie TE last year were also undrafted at Wright who lead all rookies in Receiving yardage and Fauria TE who lead all Rookie TE in TD for Detroit.

  • californy

    I notice a trend no one is talking about. many of these high price FA QB who now make in excess of 120 Million dollars. None that I can think of have won a SB Championship since they got this huge raised. In my world a QB doesnt have this high price value. Look at the two best team last year in the NFL in Seattle and SF as example,, Wilson was 26th rated Offense and Kapernick ran a 30th rated offense.

  • californy

    Unlike many people here Offense doesnt win championships, you can ask Seattle and Ravens that,when neither of their offenses was rated in the top 16 the year they won their championship

  • I really don’t think it was restraint lol they were crap broke and couldn’t do much of anything. The team lost the best players on defense and Jerry replaced them with bottom feeders as usual. (other than Melton)

    • Big Harb

      They actually could’ve overspent for Hatcher & Allen. They showed great restraint by not restructuring Carr & Witten to go forward with a free agent flurry. This is an adjustment in how the team has done business and I believe it is an extremely positive change.

  • Gabriel Carrasco

    I think the Melton deal was good, because in previous year we would have broke the bank without thinking. We didn’t this time. I thought it was good we didn’t resign Hatcher either, but the Weeden and Mincey signing were horrible. Both are 29 or older and neither have done anything, they won’t get much better at all.

    • I agree they have both peaked

    • with costa gone we have no backup center now that will need addressed

      • Gabriel Carrasco

        I would trade back and select Sua Filo, and he can possibly play C in a pinch as well. Sua Filo is emerging to be my favorite for the Cowboys. Jackson will be better, but Filo is just the best fit in the draft. I think Trai Turner is a good fit too.

        • turner is my sleeper

        • JJ should have listened to me and picked up David Molk now the Eagles signed him to a futures deal. Still think he will be better than Freddy.

  • Lionone1

    I think the Cowboys have been taking a different approach since Garrett took over. In the coming weeks up til the draft is over we will probably here about Jerry stepping back more but I think the team takes on the personality of the Coach.

    • Big Harb

      Jerry is all about getting credit & he can get all of it with JG even if he let’s Garrett have more say. Let’s hope we see some success so JJ will continue to allow better football minds have their say

  • Alexander James

    I like the premise of this article however anyone who is a fan of the Star has been duped MANY times by Jerry. It’s a given that much of it is self-delusion in the name of hope and the need to support our team.

    This strategy sounds good but will never work in Dallas until we actually consistently bring talent in via the draft (and stop trading down where the bust % skyrockets) and consistently develop said talent- both of which we have failed miserably.

    • Big Harb

      Actually all the stat guys will tell us that trading down gives more value to the team going back about 51% of the time head up and 64% of the time when you factor in the value of the additional pick (s).
      One thing you are right about is that the Cowboys have to get better at evaluating prospects no matter how they get to the draft pick.