The Dallas Cowboys approach to free agency over the past couple of years has been somewhat frustrating for a lot of fans. A lot of that is because the team is staying away from the overpriced big name free agents and then bargain shopping for players to fill holes in the roster.
The strategy is a smart approach considering the salary cap hell in which the team has found themselves in the past, thus requiring them to hold on to aging players that have seen a decline in their play.
Still, fans like their new toys and are always hoping the Cowboys will bring in one of those high-priced veteran players, mainly because they are household names. They fail to realize that these players are on the market for a reason and the money required to sign them to a contract rarely meets their production level. Take Brandon Carr for instance.
But if you were paying attention to what Jerry Jones and his son Stephen said earlier in the off-season, you wouldn’t be surprised by the way the Cowboys have patiently waited for the free agency period to work itself out and let it come to them.
“I’m not a big fan of free agency; I’ll be the first to admit it. Unfortunately, good players get paid like they’re great players, average players get paid like they’re good players and it’s a Domino effect. It’s not a great way to put your team together. Obviously you’d like to build your team through the draft and keep your players that hopefully you drafted well and keep those type of players so we’re not out there in free agency.”
~ Stephen Jones
America’s Team has done exactly what Stephen Jones said and have quietly been able to not only bring back some of their own free agents, but sign some new players that should be immediate upgrades to the roster.
I can understand the frustration from a lot of fans, but I think this relatively new strategy is due in large part to one person within the Cowboys organization, Will McClay, Dallas’ Senior Director of College/Pro Personnel.
It’s my honest opinion that McClay and the work he’s done within the Cowboys organization is one of the soul of reasons that Jerry and Stephen Jones feel comfortable enough to sit back and wait for free agency to play itself out, and then find reasonably priced veterans to fill holes and hopefully upgrade the roster.
If you’re not familiar with McClay, then you’re missing out and are not likely to know exactly how valuable he is to the Dallas Cowboys.
McClay is a meticulously detailed person who is responsible for making sure that the entire scouting department for the Cowboys is on the same page when it comes to free agency, as well as building the draft board in preparation for the NFL Draft.
McClay’s value cannot be stated enough.
He knows how to build a roster and understands the types of players that the coaching staff is looking for. This, in large part, is due to his background as a player at Rice University and then in the Arena League for the Detroit Drive, where he first received a coaching opportunity once his playing days were over.
McClay bounced around the Arena League for several years before getting his first taste of the NFL working for the Jacksonville Jaguars as the Assistant Director of Pro Scouting.
He then moved on and joined the Cowboys player personnel department before coming full circle and becoming defensive coordinator of the Dallas Desperadoes, where he would stay until he eventually was named head coach in 2004. He remained the head coach for the Desperados for five seasons before once again joining the Cowboys staff.
As you can see, his background might not be the most impressive, but he does understand the game and what it takes to build a roster.
It is something that the Cowboys truly value, and other teams around the NFL have started to take notice of McClay’s work as well. In fact, McClay is largely responsible for bringing in players off of the street that no other team in the NFL wanted, and they ended up contributing for the Cowboys. Players such as Nick Hayden, and George Selvie immediately come to mind, but there are several others.
His name has already come up a few times as being considered for a general manager’s job in the NFL, but thankfully he has decided to stay with the Cowboys for now.
Although his days with the Dallas Cowboys may ultimately be numbered, the organization will continue to rely upon his knowledge and opinion on who the team should target in free agency and in the draft.
We can only hope that Will McClay will remain with the Cowboys organization for years to come and that he continues to help build the roster the right way.