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Are the Dallas Cowboys in for Another Quiet Free Agency in 2018?

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Are the Dallas Cowboys in for Another Quiet Free Agency in 2018?
Bob Levey / Getty Images

It's almost that time of the year. You know, that moment in March when free agents are being signed all around the league and we think to ourselves: "Will the Dallas Cowboys make a big signing this time?" Year after year, despite knowing how unlikely it is, we're expecting something to happen.

Well, it's not even February and it already looks like we're in for another quiet free agency in 2018. Earlier this week, Stephen Jones' comments to the media got a lot of Cowboys fans, writers and analysts discussing this team's approach to free agency.

https://twitter.com/HelmanDC/status/956294875724636160

This franchise has adopted a process of building a team via the NFL Draft. While we may not be happy with coaching or even some football players, it's more than fair to say this front office has been doing a very good job at drafting football players for a few years now.

That's why we were so concerned about the possibility of Will McClay leaving the Cowboys this offseason.

This is a football team that built one of the best offensive lines in the league by drafting top talent. Just a year ago, they let go most of their veteran defensive backs go, and walked away with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis -- two cornerbacks who look like the future in Dallas.

One of the main reasons this franchise doesn't make big splashes in free agency is their cap space. Every season, this team struggles with low cap numbers. Take this year for example.

Per Over The Cap, the Cowboys are expected to have around $18M in 2018. This seems like quite a bit, and even more when you realize the team can restructure players or release a few expandable players (like Orlando Scandrick) who'll save this team some millions.

Who knows, they may end up surprising us all by saying goodbye to Dez Bryant.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Franchise Tags and Realities for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Matthew Emmons / USA TODAY Sports)

Even still, the Cowboys "To-Do" list is a huge one. In one offseason, they'll try to keep DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving and Anthony Hitchens, and give Zack Martin his long-awaited contract extension.

If they decide to tag DeMarcus Lawrence, that's more than $17M gone in an instant. Zack Martin will probably become the highest paid guard in the NFL. Hitchens and Lawrence won't be as expensive as these guys, but they won't come cheap either.

Getting this done won't be easy, but now imagine trying to bring in free agents who can improve this team. However, it's still possible if they decide to make some moves.

It sure would be exciting to see them pursue Earl Thomas, who told Jason Garrett "come get me" a month ago. Or maybe a wide receiver such as Donte Moncrief?

There will be a lot of talent available in March, and some of them could help this football team a lot. There're a lot of NFL teams who've benefited from bringing in free agents and the Cowboys might start wanting to do something different.

With a very tough offseason ahead, who knows if this will be the year that changes.

Tell me what you think about "Are the Dallas Cowboys in for Another Quiet Free Agency in 2018?" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!


I love to write, I love football and I love the Dallas Cowboys. I've been rooting for America's team all the way from Mexico ever since I can remember. If you want to talk football, I'm in... You'll find me at @PepoR99.

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4 Comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/DallasCowboyBooksBlog fgoodwin

    What’s it called when you do the same thing over and over and you expect a different result . . .?

    • Mauricio Rodriguez

      Insanity, haha. Thank you for reading!

  • Travis Diggs

    As a cowboys fan I feel sorry for will mcclay because he does a great job scouting and drafting. But jerry and stephen don’t meet him halfway with free agency because of cap issues. Easy solution, let guys like Scandrick and Crawford go and be aggressive in free agency with deals and trades. We watched our super bowl playing division rival last off season sign Patrick Robinson, Chris Long, Alshon, and T Smith and trade for Ajayi and Darby, and have a great draft class. Everything collectively has to work. Mcclain should of went to Houston when he had his chance. Jerry continues to waste team after team because of his decisions

  • Tamzombren Lauderdale

    I dont have a problem wit them not spending big in FA, but they need 2 make better decisions on the players they do decide 2 sign, the FA’s theyve signed the past few yrs has handicapped this team !

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys OL Fails To Crack NFL.com’s Top 10

Kevin Brady

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Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, offensive line

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.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere

Jess Haynie

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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.

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: CB Bene Benwikere 1

Dallas Cowboys CB Bene Benwikere (#23)

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.


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Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys 2018 Free Agents: OL Joe Looney

Jess Haynie

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Joe Looney, 49ers
James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

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.

Joe Looney

Dallas Cowboys G/C Joe Looney

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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