There's been a lot of frustration over the last few weeks as the Cowboys have seemingly sat on their salary cap space and allowed major free agents like Bobby Wagner, Von Miller, and Chandler Jones to pass them by. But if Dallas is staying true to their typical offseason flow, that means there could still be other moves coming as we transition into April.
Looking back over the last couple offseasons, Dallas has a trend of sitting out during the first few weeks of free agency and then signing players in April, May, and even June or July as the market cools and asking prices drop. Here's just a quick look back at some of those later signings.
Here you see three significant member of last season's roster all added in April or, in Hooker's case, much later later. Anger went to the Pro Bowl while Neal and Hooker were occasional starters and key roleplayers on defense. Both Anger and Hooker are back in 2022 with new contracts.
Even a guy like Sprinkle, relatively insignificant, is still valuable for depth and special teams usage. These roster-filling moves are typical once you get out of March and can generally get journeymen signed to minimal veteran deals.
- March 30 – K Greg Zuerlein, CB Maurice Canady
- March 31 – DT Gerald McCoy
- April 29 – CB Daryl Worley
- May 4 – QB Andy Dalton
- May 6 – OL Cameron Erving
I know I included a few late-March signings here but they still help make the point. The Cowboys waited for big names like Zuerlein and McCoy to sit in free agency for a while before striking. Unfortunately, both guys wound up proving why there wasn't much interest on the open market.
Dallas addressed several depth needs during the later waves of free agency in 2020, such as swing tackle with Erving and backup QB with Dalton. These moves didn't come until shortly after the draft, which indicates the Cowboys were open to addressing these positions during that event but ultimately chose not to. We could see the same occur this year.
Dallas was focused on contract negotiations with DeMarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith and mostly ran it back with the same talent from their 2018 playoff team. They added Randall Cobb on offense but other than that it was a very quiet offseason in terms of external free agents.
This was really the same story from 2017-2019. The Cowboys felt good about their core roster and would make a few minor moves early in free agency, but they were clearly focusing on developing young talent and leaned on the draft to reload.
~ ~ ~
Will the pattern from 2020-2021 continue this offseason? Dallas still has an estimated $14-$15 million in cap space remaining; plenty of ammo to make some of later-wave free agency moves if they choose to.
The Cowboys could seek to shore up a few more positions before the draft. The team has historically tried to go into each draft without any obvious need, making left guard stand out as the spot where a veteran signing could happen before April's big event. Additional help at WR, TE, OT, DT, or LB are all on the table as well.
The last two years have also shown us where Dallas will wait until after the draft to deal with some needs. As teams fill their rosters with rookie talent the remaining veteran free agents only become more desperate, which is music to Stephen Jones' ears.
It will still be a surprise if the Cowboys make any kind of “splash” signing, especially with few players left on the market who would qualify. But if the last two years are any indication, Dallas isn't done with free agency just yet.