Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging Holes Before The Draft

If there is one tendency the Cowboys have shown as of late, it is that they like to enter the draft with no major holes.

This allows the team to draft without need in mind and helps them to select the best available player. While they haven’t been huge spenders and they haven’t landed many marquee names, they’ve made sure that they have quality talent at every position so that they can have a more sound draft.

This season sings a little different tune. While the Cowboys have a lot of needs, they also have a ton of cap space and are coming off of a tremendously disappointing season.

I’ll be completely honest, I fully believe the Cowboys would sit and wait until the second week of free agency. At least.

Yesterday, I read a story about Jerry Jones losing sleep over this past season and it made me start thinking.

This past season was an utter embarrassment in so many ways. This was a team coming off of a 12-4 season that improved dramatically and was poised for a deep playoff run. Instead, they fell flat on their face. Yes, injuries contributed to it, but it doesn’t tell the entire story.

The Cowboys took a chance on Greg Hardy and that came with tremendous backlash. You can only imagine that they made this move thinking he would be the final piece of the puzzle in getting the Cowboys to the promised land.

Instead, the Hardy drama led the Cowboys down a disastrous season from a PR perspective. You couldn’t avoid the bad press. The Cowboys were everywhere. Even Dez Bryant lost his cool at a point. If you combine that with the results on the field, you get a Jerry Jones who probably isn’t just upset or losing sleep, but is embarrassed.

Enter a Cowboys team that now has the ability to easily soar to over $30 million in cap space. The Cowboys may be serious spenders in trying to put together a team that no longer has huge holes to fill and plug those holes with some big talent. Add the great draft position to that and some health and you get a powerhouse Cowboys team.

How could some of this money be spent?

Well, let’s start with the People’s Champion, Lamar Miller.

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Lamar Miller…come on down to Dallas!

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll see my Tweets to him everyday reminding him how perfect the match is between him and Dallas. There’s also a hashtag and website for it; #MillerToDallas and is full of tweets mentioning the hashtag.

The Cowboys were willing to offer DeMarco Murray a contract around $6 million per year. You can offer something similar to Lamar Miller. Maybe even less. Miller is 24 and is extremely under-utilized. He has all the makings of a breakout player and would fit perfectly behind Dallas’ offensive line. With Miller in Dallas, that eliminates the need for a running back, unless for some reason you think Darren McFadden is the guy.

A favorite of mine is Olivier Vernon.

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Olivier Vernon made his presence felt when the Dolphins played the Cowboys this season

Tyron Smith is really good right? Of course he is. Go back and think about all the games he has played. Now try and think about all the talent he has faced at both left and right tackle over his career. Who performed the best of them all?

Olivier Vernon is the one player who comes to mind that really had Smith’s number. It came as a shock to see Smith struggle so much with Vernon, because we just aren’t used to seeing anything like that.

Vernon going against Smith throughout camp and in practices would be awesome to watch and would help each of them tremendously. Vernon is a player that I see as barely scratching the surface. There is so much talent in him and he is going to unleash all of it very soon. With Rod Marinelli working with him and Tyron Smith forcing him to bring his best every time, Vernon will improve by leaps and bounds.

Now, Vernon will not be cheap. He is 25 and there is tons of tape to prove how good he really is. While his sack totals aren’t tremendously high, his age, potential, and disruption will ensure he gets paid well in free agency.

I look at the contract Vinny Curry signed with Philadelphia and the one Everson Griffen signed with Minnesota as baselines for the Vernon contract. Curry received a 5-year contract worth $47.25 million. Griffen’s contract is for 5 years and worth $42.5 million.

Vernon averages more sacks per year than both of these players and is also younger. I would say the low end for Vernon would be 5 years for $45 million with the high end being 5 years and around $50 million.

George Iloka & Eric Weddle are other intriguing options.

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George Iloka is a huge part of Cincinnati’s defensive success

Before this season, Eric Weddle was easily one of the best cover safeties in the NFL. A disappointing 2015 have some soured on him.

Weddle just turned 31, so you are going to get some regression at some point, but I have my doubts that they are coming soon. I think you can attribute his 2015 performance to just a bad San Diego Chargers team. His poor 2015 – by his standards – and his age should make him pretty affordable and if Dallas could land him on a short-term deal it could be a huge signing.

George Iloka is a different safety than Eric Weddle. If you are tired of seeing Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox take poor angles and give up huge plays, then George Iloka is your guy. Pair Iloka with Byron Jones at safety and you get a really nice free and strong safety duo. Iloka will rarely take the wrong angle and when he hits… he hits hard. He is also 25 and has a lot of football in front of him.

Trumaine Johnson is my favorite option at cornerback.

This is the biggest hole on the roster and I fully expect the position to be addressed in some fashion.

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys Free Agency: Plugging the Holes Before the Draft
Trumaine Johnson can become a huge part of the Cowboys secondary and his age means he’ll be around for a while

Johnson just turned 26 and is coming off a career year. Some might look at his 2015 performance and worry that it happened because it was a contract year. The big thing with 2015 to me is that he played more than 75% of the team’s defensive snaps. Prior to 2015, he played mostly below 20% of the team’s snaps.

With a bigger role Johnson embraced it and performed admirably tallying eight interceptions, something the Cowboys secondary needs desperately.

At 6’2, Johnson offers the kind of size teams are looking for today to combat some of the league’s taller receivers. Johnson is also a freak athlete, so his addition to the secondary would go a long way for the team.

Some other names that I would keep in mind are:

  • DE DeMarcus Ware (if released)
  • DE Mario Williams (if released)
  • CB Janoris Jenkins
  • CB Sean Smith
  • CB Casey Hayward
  • CB Brandon Boykin
  • DE Nick Perry
  • DE Courtney Upshaw
  • DE Bruce Irvin
  • DE Robert Ayers
  • DE Adrian Clayborn
  • TE Dwayne Allen
  • TE Benjamin Watson

What do you think?


Written by Nick Cocchiaro

I've been blogging about sports and music for almost eight years now. I also work in media relations for a New York sports team, so I understand the bridge between the outlets writing about a team and the team monitoring content.

I hope to bring something new to Inside The Star, getting deep into draft work, breakdowns and I always come with a strong and passionate opinion. I'm very active on Twitter, so ask questions, comment on stuff, etc. and I will almost definitely respond to you in some sort of debate!


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