There was a bit of a frenzy when Free Agency began on March 9th but the Dallas Cowboys didn’t take part in it. In fact, the team has let a few of their veteran players move on to greener pastures fairly easily. Looking at what’s taken place thus far, there are several reasons the Cowboys leadership team and their fans should relax this off-season.
Dallas Cowboys Should Relax This Off-Season
Many teams have made waves during the NFL’s free agency period, signing journeymen and even trading for productive players. However, the Cowboys have remained relatively dormant. They have signed a few less-costly but quality players, bringing in former Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll and former Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Stephen Paea.
It appears as though the Cowboys leadership team has finally learned from its past mistakes. They seem to be opting not to overspend in free agency but use it to build depth behind the team’s young starters. Carroll may end up as a starter in the secondary next season but it’s not a guarantee. Here are the reasons the team and its fans should relax and let things play-out during the off-season.
Free Agency Departures
The Cowboys have allowed some of their starters in 2016 to leave for other teams in free agency. Sports enthusiasts and reporters have called the departures losses, but observe these departures for a minute. Can they really be considered losses? Let’s start with the departure of corner-back Brandon Carr, who has signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
Carr had a decent season in 2016, but his overall performance didn’t make much of a difference to the Cowboys defense. Maybe the best part of his being on the team was his availability. The team was able to count on him to be in the lineup for 17 weeks. Other members of the secondary missed significant time during the season, preventing defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli from having his full-compliment of players throughout most of the year.
Carr was there every week, but in the end he was unable to produce any difference-making plays. In fact, Carr finished his five-year stint in Arlington, Texas with just seven interceptions. Conversely, before the Cowboys signed the veteran defender as a big-time free agent from the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012, he had produced eight interceptions. Carr never lived up to the hype but again, he was always available.
Safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox were lured away in free agency, as well. Both players had been steady for the Cowboys during their tenure but neither was exceptional. Their performances didn’t warrant new deals and definitely not big money. Essentially, Church and Wilcox weren’t going to be courted by the team because they weren’t good enough.
Love both players to death but when it’s all said and done, the Cowboys need play-makers in the secondary. Church worked his way into the starting line-up by being opportunistic and durable, but had fallen-off in both areas, in recent years.
Wilcox was an experiment who made a name for himself as a big-hitter, of late. He was always a player who would give maximum effort. Heading into 2016, Wilcox was on the bubble, but a strong training camp and several huge hits during the preseason left the Cowboys with no choice but to keep him on their roster.
Unfortunately, Wilcox was a few dropped interceptions away from becoming a permanent fixture in the Cowboys defensive lineup. The team had seen enough of both players to make a calculated decision to let them test the market. They both found new homes and that’s quite all right.
Unproductive Defensive Linemen Gone
The Cowboys have also let some of their defensive linemen move on in free agency. Defensive ends Jack Crawford and Ryan Davis have moved on, as well as defensive tackle Terrell McClain. Looking at their production over the past few seasons, these players have a combined 13 sacks for the Cowboys in nearly 40 games.
Those statistics just do not cut the mustard. The team is in need of much more production, if it ever wants to build a defense that will garner the kind of respect a championship-level defense deserves. There are still plenty of young defensive linemen on the team’s roster who have a lot of upside left in their development.
Young Athletic Talent Remains
If rookie defensive end Charles Tapper is able to bounce back from the injury that sidelined him for the entire season, the team will have another young and ferocious player to add to its defensive line depth. Teaming Tapper up with the likes of David Irving, Demarcus Lawrence, and Benson Mayowa will give the Cowboys a much younger, athletic look across the front.
Lawrence seems to have put his issues with Marijuana behind him. Yes, he is coming off of another back injury but the player is still very young. The ceilings for each of these players has yet to be reached but with available playing time in 2017, continued growth is expected.
Leary a Huge Loss
The departure of offensive lineman Ronald Leary will hurt the Cowboys the most, heading into OTAs. There are some who believe that Leary’s re-entry into the starting line-up after La’el Collins was lost for the season restored order to the team’s offensive huddle.
The proof is in the pudding as the veteran was again part of an offensive line that opened holes for the league’s leading rusher, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott. The Denver Broncos are getting a good one, in Leary, who has been available more often than not throughout his career.
Durable Player Gone
Leary did have an issue with his right knee during his second season with the team, but he only missed the preseason. Miraculously, the valuable left guard was able to start and play in all 16 games that season. However, he was dinged up again in 2015, which is part of the reason he lost his job to Collins, but for the most part the Broncos will be able to count on Leary to be available every week. The Cowboys will miss having him.
An Abundance of Defensive Backs in the Draft
It’s pretty obvious the Cowboys need to add depth to their defensive backfield but more importantly, they need to add play-makers. Fortunately, this year’s draft is stocked full of players who can come in and start from day one. Ironically, this year’s draft isn’t just stocked with cornerbacks. There are safeties available, too.
At the moment, the Cowboys have the 28th pick in the first round. This will allow them to draft the caliber of player who could drastically change their defensive outlook. Many experts believe that the top cornerbacks will be gone early, but there should still be first-round talent left on the board when the Cowboys make their selection.
Young Athletic Prospects at Defensive Back
Bleacher Report has the team selecting cornerback Kevin King out of the University of Washington in their mock draft. At 6’3” 200 pounds, King has the kind of size that will help him against opponents in the treacherous NFC East. The 4.4 he ran at the combine should also allow him to remain competitive while learning the ins and outs of life on the edge in the NFL.
Safety Obi Melifonwu out of the University of Connecticut is essentially a freak of nature, and he may also be available when the Cowboys make their selection in the first round. While he’s not projected as a first rounder by many NFL experts, his size and speed are something to marvel at. Melifonwu stands at 6’4” 225 pounds and runs a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. With an athletic profile like that, he could be the kind of player who could really do some damage at the next level.
There are many more players who should be available for the Cowboys in the upcoming draft. King and Melifonwu could both end up going in the second or even third rounds but they have ability that will help any team who decides to give them an opportunity. One or both of them could be the play-makers the team has been looking for all these years.
Romo is on the Roster
As of today, Tony Romo is still on the Cowboys current roster. This is considered an albatross to some, but for others it could end up being just what the doctor ordered. Romo has been an important piece of what the Cowboys have done the past ten plus seasons which isn’t much, if you’re actually looking at post-season success.
Winning In the Post-Season Matters
Nevertheless, the quarterback has proven that he can play at this level, surpassing all of the team’s quarterbacks in almost every statistical category in team history. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t add Lombardi trophies to the trophy case. In fact, former Cowboys quarterback Danny White led his teams to three consecutive NFC championship games.
Romo has only won two of his six playoff games but he did perform very well in those games, as he has an eight to two touchdown ,to interception ratio in those contests. Romo shouldn’t get all the blame for every loss but he was the player driving the bus.
A Viable Back-up Option
If the Cowboys can convince Romo to restructure the remaining years of his deal and remain with the team as the backup to newly-anointed Dak Prescott, the team could still claim to have the best quarterback group in the league as they did this past year. It’s doubtful the team can make this happen, because Romo has made it clear he still wants to play.
Romo’s stance was made a few months ago. Maybe things have changed. Having Romo available in the event the Prescott succumbs to an injury would give Jason Garrett and his offensive staff the confidence they’ve lacked the past few years.
Romo’s availability has been an issue, but he could come in and take over the reins until Prescott returns to the line-up, and he might even impress a few suitors with his performance. Romo’s body would take less of a pounding, making it easier for the Cowboys to move him and receive some sort of compensation for him.
Ultimately, the Cowboys don’t have to be in any hurry to make any moves. They can stand pat until the days leading up to the draft and make a move. They can also continue to work behind the scenes to bring in veteran talent to add depth to a roster that looks thin right now. The team appears to be determined to regain its edge against the competition over the long haul. Instant gratification doesn’t look like it’s on the menu at the Star in Frisco, anymore.