The Dallas Cowboys can't seem to find the happy balance when it comes to their approach to free agency. They have tried bringing in the big money free agents only to fail, and they have tried the thrifty spending approach, only to fail again. Something needs to change.
I'm personally hoping that that change comes this offseason. The Dallas Cowboys have a talented roster, but they also have a lot of holes that need filled.
The good news is, the Cowboys have been excellent building through the draft these last several years. They look to have added several cornerstone players, who will play key roles in the teams success for several years. But, saying the same thing about free agents is something else entirely.
With the start of free agency first, the Cowboys have to find that happy balance. They still have to be frugal with their spending, but not to the point where they are bringing in players who pretty much just become camp bodies.
Below I've decided to share with you three reasons why I think the Dallas Cowboys will change their approach to free agency for the better this offseason. Let me know what you think in the comment section located at the end of the article.
"Bargain Shopping" Isn't Working
The Dallas Cowboys haven't been very active in free agency these last several years, instead they have tried to plug holes in their roster with the "bargain shopping" strategy. Unfortunately, digging around in the scrapheap hasn't paid off.
If you were to scan over the Cowboys current roster, you would be hard-pressed to find a free agent the Dallas Cowboys have signed in the last couple of years. That's because the majority of them have fizzled out in Dallas or been replaced with younger more talented players.
The last two "big-money" FAs, Cedric Thorton and Nolan Carroll, were supposed to come in and compete for starting jobs, but weren't even able to play out their contracts. Carroll couldn't even make it to mid-season.
These are the kinds of players the Cowboys have been bringing in through free agency, but they've actually done more harm than good. Their contract still count towards the salary cap, which creates more dead money. It's time to stop shopping in the bargain bin and upgrade to players who can actually contribute, even if it does cost a little bit more.
Jerry Jones' Ego
The 2017 season couldn't have ended in a worse fashion for Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. No, I'm not talking about the disappointing season the Cowboys put together. I'm talking about them having to watch their division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, win the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.
We all know what Jerry Jones thinks about the Dallas Cowboys and how egotistical he can be. So, it was kind of a slap in the face to watch the Eagles win the Super Bowl, especially since he truly believes the Cowboys are probably the best team in the NFC East division.
It wouldn't be all that surprising if Jerry Jones were to change that "bargain shopping" mentality and open up his pocketbook to bring in some higher-priced free agents. He saw the Eagles bring in FAs last offseason and how much it impacted their season, so I expect them to follow suit.
He definitely doesn't like being [Philadelphia Eagle] green with envy. He will do everything in his power to upgrade the roster for the upcoming 2018 season and that starts with free agency.
Championship Within Reach
It's not crazy to think that the Dallas Cowboys are an offseason away from competing for a title. Stephen Jones admitted to as much recently. I mean, who would've predicted the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl this time a year ago.
The Cowboys have just as much talent on the roster as the Eagles, but unfortunately they don't have the depth, which was proven in 2017. It's definitely not going to be an easy task to accomplish, but the Cowboys are within reach of a championship.
They came close in 2016, but injuries and suspensions this past season hurt them in a big way. But, things could change this upcoming season if everything goes right in regards to the moves and decisions they make in the offseason.
First off, they are going to need a really good draft to continue to build the team the right way. But, that's not going to be enough on its own to fill all the holes in the roster. That means free agency becomes even more important.
The Cowboys don't have to go on a big spending spree, because they can't really afford it. But, they have to become more active and find free agents who can actually contribute and provide much-needed roster depth.
They only have so much time to do that before they have to pay Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott quite a bit more money. Their window is closing.
Do you think the Cowboys free agency approach should change?
Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10
Often considered a top unit in football, the Dallas Cowboys offensive line seemed to take a step back in 2017. Mostly due to injuries and free agent departures on the left side, the Cowboys were unable to form the same solid unit we have seen in years past.
Despite their struggles, most would still consider them a top 5-10 offensive line in the NFL. At least, that's what I'd expect considering they still feature three All-Pro caliber players upfront.
Matt Harmon of NFL.com put together a list of the top 10 offensive lines in football based on performance in the 2017 season. The list was strictly developed through the use of next gen stats, which defined pressure as "pass-rushing play in which a defender gets within 2 yards of the opposing quarterback at the time of the throw or sack." In addition, "yards gained before close" was taken into account. This metric is meant to measure "the amount of rushing yards a running back gains before opposing defenders come within 1 yard of the player."
After compiling all of these stats, the Cowboys offensive line was left off of the list completely. Maybe even more surprising, however, was that the Philadelphia Eagles' line failed to crack the top ten as well. That's two lines with 3-4 Pro Bowl caliber players each missing the cut.
According to Matt Harmon the Cowboys allowed a pressure on 28.6% of Dak Prescott's dropbacks, 12th highest in the league. Dallas also ranked 20th in the league in YGBC in 2017.
While I do have some issues with the methodology of these statistics, the final result is actually hard to argue with. Down the stretch the Cowboys offense was downright pathetic at times. Regardless of how highly we thought of them prior to the year, the offense didn't perform to their standards, or the standards of a top ten unit.
Heading into 2018, however, I do expect this offensive line to begin to regain form. La'el Collins should continue to improve on the right side, and he is already an adequate starting right tackle regardless. I also expect Dallas to address their left guard spot, potentially within the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the end the success of this line may hinge on the health of Tyron Smith, though. When healthy, Smith is the best left tackle in all of football. But that "when healthy" caveat has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense.
The way the front office handles their offensive line this offseason will play a huge role in the success, or lack thereof, of the Cowboys in 2018.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere
After playing sparsely for the Dallas Cowboys in 2017, veteran cornerback Bene Benwikere is set to be an unrestricted free agent. Could he stay in Dallas, or will he have to find work elsewhere?
Dallas was concerned about its CB depth with heavy reliance on young players and Jourdan Lewis barely participating in the offseason. Therefore, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals for Benwikere just before Week One.
After a stellar rookie season with the Carolina Panthers in 2014, Bene had suffered a steep fall before landing in Cincy. Injuries and poor play got him cut midway through 2016 by the Panthers, and then Benwikere bounced from Miami to Green Bay before finally signing with the Bengals in the 2017 offseason.
Though a few years removed from being an All-Rookie Team standout, Bene Benwikere is still just 26 and may still draw interest from scouts who remember his better days. He is likely counting on that, because the Cowboys' secondary is starting to fill up.
The Cowboys currently have exciting sophomores Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis expected to start in 2018. Anthony Brown is back for his third season and will be active on game days.
Orlando Scandrick's future is cloudy, but Dallas won't get much cap relief from releasing him this season. They may elect to keep the veteran for one more year, which would all but fill out the CB depth chart.
Even if Scandrick leaves, talk that Dallas may move Byron Jones back to corner from safety would only leave Benwikere in the same disadvantaged position for finding work.
The best chance that Bene Benwikere has to stay with the Cowboys is if new Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard remembers him from 2014. Coaches often feel that can get more out of a player than the last guy, and Richard may see potential in Benwikere that his last few teams couldn't unlock.
Four years ago may be too long, though, and especially with a fresh new crop of young players coming into the league. Especially if they keep Scandrick, Dallas may want to use the rest of their roster spots on younger prospects.
As it stands, Bene Benwikere is unlikely to return to the Cowboys. However, given the flashes of potential he once showed in the NFL, you can't be certain that Dallas won't want to give him one more chance.
Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: OL Joe Looney
Dallas Cowboys backup offensive lineman Joe Looney was active for all 16 games of 2017 and never had to start. That is exactly what you want from a reserve player, and Looney has been relied on as security for the interior o-line for two years now. However, he enters 2018 as an unrestricted free agent.
A six-year veteran, Looney turns 28 years old in August. He has two years in the Cowboys system and is still in his physical prime. Able to play guard or center, "Jumbo Joe" is a nice value with versatility and familiarity.
Dallas got Looney on the cheap in 2016, signing him to a two-year deal at just $1.68 million. While he hasn't been seen much over the last two seasons, coming out of the Cowboys' offensive line could raise his profile in this free agent market compared to last time.
For example, the last guy to hold Joe's role in Dallas was Mackenzy Bernadeau. Dallas paid him $5.7 million from 2014-2015 to be the versatile backup at guard and center. Looney is at a comparable point now in his career.
Dallas may not want to give Joe Looney that kind of raise, but they may have to given other issues on the line. Starting guard Jonathan Cooper is also a free agent and was injured in Week 17. Chaz Green was tried at guard last year and failed.
Even if they didn't need Loooney to play guard, he is also the backup center and the currently the best candidate on the roster for that role.
While nobody wants Looney as the starting left guard in 2018, but Dallas may not want to give Cooper a new deal given his injury history. La'el Collins appears locked in at right tackle, so the Cowboys may feel the need to pay more to keep Looney in case the offseason doesn't provide a better option.
If the Cowboys are inspired to retain Joe Looney, it could mean raising his annual salary from about $800k to close to $3 million. Even with more cap flexibility than they've had in recent years, that's still a big jump that Dallas won't take lightly.
Clearly, Joe Looney's return in 2018 is not an easy decision. He could be a solid veteran depth option for some teams and might even find starting work if someone's desperate enough.
With Dallas facing some uncertainty on the offensive line, that gives Looney the leverage in any upcoming contract negotiations.
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