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.
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 thatÃ‚Â we havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seen around these parts for most of the last two decadesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦RESTRAINT!!
There have been several examples of this RESTRAINT inÃ‚Â 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.
Cutting 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 IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure it hurts him quite a bit less now that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cashing the Bowlen familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to an NFC East rival
The 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 DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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!
Over the past few days I have seen all the hand-wringing and gnashing of teethÃ‚Â 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 wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be available, but letÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 seemÃ‚Â consumed with can their pickupsÃ‚Â 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 WeedenÃ‚Â will beÃ‚Â a productive QB in the future. Pickups like Mincey and McClain fall under this same category
Jason HatcherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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 JerryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s money to make Jason HatcherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deal look small. That didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢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. Ã‚Â Let me know what you think in the comments below.