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Cowboys Free Agency Graded Above Average by Pro Football Focus

There’s a lot of time left in free agency for the Dallas Cowboys to add pieces to their team and obviously the NFL Draft will be their next biggest opportunity to add quality impact players. But with COVID-19 and some downtime from the first week for free agency, publications are beginning to hand out — in my opinion, way too early — free agency grades.

Earlier this week, Pro Football Focus gave the Dallas Cowboys a grade of “above average.”

Here’s what they had to say about the Cowboys free agency thus far.

If it weren’t for the Cowboys paying Ezekiel Elliott a ridiculous six-year, $90 million contract with $50 million guaranteed prior to the season that caused them to lose one of the NFL’s best outside man-to-man corners in Byron Jones, they would have had a near-perfect free agency. Amari Cooper was a must to lock up long-term — he is easily one of the best route-runners in the league. Since coming to Dallas, Cooper has seen 58% of his 20-plus yard targets come with a step or more of separation, which leads the NFL and is nearly 20 percentage points above the average. He’s been a game-changer for the Dallas offense.

Getting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for just $4 million in 2020 is one of the biggest steals of free agency. In his career, Clinton-Dix has totaled 38 combined interceptions and pass breakups and will rarely give up multiple big plays in a single game. In fact, out of his 96 games played, he allowed more than 45 yards in coverage in just six outings and has surrendered only six touchdowns and 23 explosive plays of 15-plus yards on 3,936 coverage snaps. Clinton-Dix will reunite with his former head coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay and be a huge addition to the Dallas defense. Getting Gerald McCoy for the price the Cowboys did is sneaky good, too. He’s not nearly as disruptive as in past years, but McCoy was still one of the 10 most valuable interior defensive linemen in 2019.

Anthony Treash – Pro Football Focus

The Dallas Cowboys were one of just 10 teams to receive an “Above Average” grade or better. Only one team, the Los Angeles Chargers received a grade of “Excellent,” which likely stems from their discount signing of Austin Ekeler and allowing Melvin Gordon to walk in free agency. They also reinforced their offensive and defensive lines and added Chris Harris Jr. to their already pretty formidable secondary.

Most of the criticism the Cowboys received from Pro Football Focus surrounds the extension they handed out to Ezekiel Elliott prior to the 2019 season. Their argument is that had they not extended Elliott, they would have been able to hold onto Cornerback Byron Jones. That’s not entirely accurate.

As has been discussed at length, the Dallas Cowboys could have found a way to pay Byron Jones elite cornerback money if they wanted to bring him back. Jones was allowed to leave for Miami not because he was too expensive because they could have paid him, but because they didn’t value him as a top cornerback in the NFL.

Ezekiel Elliott’s contract is a big one, but it didn’t prohibit the Dallas Cowboys from re-signing Byron Jones. Had they really wanted him back, they could have made it work.

Bringing in Gerald McCoy and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for a total of $10 million on the 2020 salary cap were huge additions for the Dallas Cowboys. They found two starter level players who can make an impact this season for very inexpensive. That was excellent value.

They called Amari Cooper a “must lock up long-term” and I wholeheartedly agree. You’d only have to go back to the first half of the 2018 season to see what a difference there was in the offense after Cooper came aboard. His presence helps take the pressure off of the entire offense. Even with Michael Gallup emerging last year, he hasn’t reached the level where he can fill a WR1 role just yet.

Cooper and Quarterback Dak Prescott have such excellent chemistry, keeping them together was vital to their future success. As the Cowboys get ready to pay Dak Prescott potentially the riches quarterback contract in the NFL, having his number one wide receiver on the payroll will ensure that Prescott continues to progress and put up the eye-popping numbers we saw from him in 2019.

The Cowboys also have done an excellent job at fortifying their depth with Sean Lee, Joe Thomas, Maurice Canady, Joe Looney (who will now compete to start at center), Anthony Brown, Darian Thompson, and Kai Forbath. Admittedly, they haven’t been the splashiest team in free agency, but they’ve once again set themselves to draft free of having to force a need at any point in the draft.

It’s still early in the free agency period and there are still a lot of quality free agents that could fill a Dallas Cowboys need. However, the direction they go from here on out will likely focus on the 2020 NFL Draft to fill out their roster.

It may not be an excellent free agency for the Cowboys just yet, but it’s been solid. We won’t know how it all plays out until they play games in the fall, but for now, it all looks pretty good on paper. Let’s hope paper translates into wins this year.

What do you think?

John Williams

Written by John Williams

Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual, reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

Make sure you check out the Inside The Cowboys Podcast featuring John Williams and other analysts following America's Team.

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  1. I have to agree with what there saying they should not of paid Zek that kind of money, to me Zek looked slow last year but I guess when your toting 90 mill in your pockets it makes it hard to get up to speed.

    And one other thing if they pay Dak the kind of money he is asking for that will be another big mistake they will have to deal with for years I lost respect for Dak when he said he don’t play for the money that’s all bs and lip service he is just another greedy person in the world how much money do you really need in your life time?

    • To me, Zeke has nothing to do with the conversation. Paying Zeke didn’t keep them from paying Byron.

      Jim, I hear you, but it’s not really fair to expect someone to take less than what they can get to do their job. Someone can play for the love of the game and also try to get paid as much as possible. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

  2. If not agree with either Byron Jones assessment. I think they could have paid him and I believe they valued him as too corner in the league but I think they had no desire to reset the market 3 times and let him go get his deserved money.

  3. With the DL additions of McCoy and Poe, and a real FS this will allow the LB’s to make a lot of plays. Looks good, draft a DB, stud WR and pass rusher. Not necessarily in that order tho!

  4. absolutely LOVE the big boyz they added in free agency, FINALLY !!! want to trade back and get a good center in the second if possible to shore up the middle of O-LINE… would love to get WR dee lamb at 17 if at all he slides to us, but trading back and possibly getting WR reagor would do also ,,

    • I’m really interested to see what Connor McGovern has at center. If he’s able to beat out Joe Looney after sitting out a year, then it’s likely you have your Travis Frederick replacement. This doesn’t sound like a good draft for Interior offensive linemen.

  5. Zeke restructured to allow Dallas flexibility… why scapegoat individual players for front office priorities? It’s not any player’s role to manage rosters. To continue alluding to players under contract as “blockers” is dishonest.

  6. Agree with everything except Byron Jones. Losing Byron was not a negative. He was the weak link of that secondary and Defense. Always got beat, remember it Bryon who got beat in both playoff games to set up winning scores. Not paying Byron Jones was the best thing Dallas has done. Great athlete horrible conerback

    • Sir, I don’t know what games you were watching. Byron Jones was the best cornerback the Dallas Cowboys have had since prime Terrance Newman. Yes, he got beat. If you watched the Super Bowl, you might have seen Richard Sherman get beat as well. It happens. the Cowboys secondary is worse without Byron Jones.

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