Executive Vice President, CEO, and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones has stated time and time again that the Dallas Cowboys would not be major player’s in free agency any longer. Much to the chagrin of Cowboys Nation, that assertion has continually rang true in recent years.
It wasn’t so long ago fans would get upset with Owner Jerry Jones for overpaying in the name of talent acquisition. Joey Galloway anybody? The Cowboys gave up two first round selections in the 2000 and 2001 NFL Drafts for his services. It was a trade that set the Boys back talent wise for years and put them in salary cap purgatory for some time.
Kicker Mike Vanderjagt, defensive end Marcellus Wiley, running backs Chris Warren and Eddie George are also examples of this trend. But for more recent history, look no further than cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed with Dallas in 2012 on a five year, $50 million dollar deal, which had fully guaranteed base salaries of $15.5 million in each of the first two years. To many, it was the free agent splurge that finally broke the Cowboys of their big-spending ways. In the years since that deal, Dallas has changed its thought process regarding high profile players and big bucks, opting instead for a thriftier approach with cost-effective players.
Players such as George Selvie, Nick Hayden, Benson Mayowa , Laurent Robinson and Antwuan Woods were each “bargain bin” signings labeled by most as mere “camp bodies,” yet each ended up breaking out with the Cowboys and contributing significantly to the team’s success as a whole.
“Sometimes you’re required to use it, but you better go in with your eyes wide open that you’re overpaying. You’re going to pay good players like they’re great, average players like they are good, below average players like they’re average. Not a huge fan of having to go out and pay guys a lot of money, filling in big needs through unrestricted free agency. We’d rather build through the draft and then pay our own players.”Stephen Jones on free agency (2017)
What cannot be disputed is that Jones’s theory of building through the draft has paid dividends in recent years with players such as Travis Fredrick, Zack Martin, Demarcus Lawrence, Ezekiel Elliott, Jaylon Smith, Dak Prescott, Xavier Woods and, just last season, Michael Gallup and linebacking sensation, Leighton Vander Esch.
Since 2014, the Cowboys have three division crowns and only one losing season -the injury-plagued 2015 campaign that saw Tony Romo and Dez Bryant lost for the year. For the first time in what feels like forever, the Dallas Cowboys have capital to use on its homegrown players and upcoming draft picks. As it stands currently, the team has a projected $47-54 million available, with only $4 million in dead money on the books. Cowboys fans should be happy about that.
Dallas has continued to win despite sitting out on big name free agency, so why change now? Would I like to have some of those big names each year? Sure I would. But as long as the Cowboys are competitive and winning, there is no reason to complain. Don’t let your blood pressure rise with each big name that goes off the board to a team not based in Dallas. As long as Stephen Jones is in control of the finances, this will be the norm from here on out.