Whoever invented the game of Musical Chairs for children was diabolical. No one wants to be “that guy.” The one left standing when the music stops and all the other kids point and laugh cruelly. It’s a horrible feeling but an incredibly important lesson for everyone to learn. Or as grandpa used to put it … “50% of something is better than 100% of nothing.” Ultimately those are the the harsh realities of NFL Free Agency and it took the current Cowboys brain-trust 20 years to learn them. But they did.
Everything in life has nuance. NFL Free Agency is no different. You want to sign your guy early, you pay a premium. Premium in this instance is defined as paying a player more than his production is worth. You pay enough “premiums” and in very short order your team’s salary cap structure is blown up and all of a sudden you can’t afford to resign your own players any more, let alone take shots at other team’s cast offs.
Fan’s generally look at Free Agency from a team perspective. However the rules also affect players. A good agent knows he wants to get his player signed early as there are only so many chairs to go around. If he want’s to get his player signed early he may need to give a discount in order to entice a team to make the offer now instead of later when better deals abound. If his player is left standing at the end of the music, the agent is certainly is going to have some explaining to do yet if an agent negotiates enough discounts, pretty soon he’s not an agent any more. The rules work both ways.
You mash this all up together and some realities pop out. Namely that out of all the free agents a team loses each offseason, most will not fare better with their new clubs. The players made free agency because they were not good/productive enough for their own teams to invest enough to preclude this from happening. In better organizations there are (often) young, cheaper (sometimes) better players waiting for their chance in the sun and the exiting players are fully aware of this. Why stick with the current club when there is a very good chance your chair will be pulled out from under you?
So yes, the Cowboys are in the process of losing quite a few free agents this off season. At this moment last year instead of lamenting losing Terrell McClain after a solid year Cowboys Nation was wondering if the talented 1-Tech was going to be able to play more than a game or two in the regular season. It would be a minor miracle if Washington gets 16 games out of McClain this year. Lance Dunbar most likely won’t suit up for the Rams 16 times in 2017 either. Hoping to see Morris Claiborne 16 times next year in a Jet’s uni? Get prepared to live with disappointment. In truth Dallas only had part time rental agreements with these guys when they were here. Lastly, you don’t replace an elite (backup) QB like Tony Romo. You move on.
Carr, Leary & Church were the only full time players that walked and Church had the rep but in reality missed quite a few games over his Cowboys career. None were “plus” players that determine the fate of a ball club. Though Carr was paid like one. To be frank, Carr and Church played positions pundits pointed to as needing upgrades while they were here.
I fully understand the angst some feel watching the offseason turnover. In reality (most of) these moves had to be made in order for the team to progress. For disparate reasons McClain, Dunbar, Church, Claiborne, Carr, Escobar, Durant and Rolando McClain were all talented players that were unable to deliver the cheese come game time in a reliable fashion. They needed to go.
The real question is can Dallas replace them? Can the players they get deliver on game day versus either sitting in the training room or counting their Free Agency dollars instead of working out?
Losing Ronald Leary and J.J. Wilcox hurt. Both players are on the upside of their careers and obviously were improving. Dallas should receive compensation picks for them next season. In the mean time they have to find ways to replace what they’ve lost. Pieces are available in both cases (Collins at OG and Frazier at Safety), confidence in their abilities however has yet to be earned.
Successful organizations draft well in the modern NFL. The salary cap demands it. Are the Dallas Cowboys as talented now as they were at the beginning of last season? No. They are not. Other than the New England Patriots, no team is. Ask me again after the draft. Then ask again after preseason has revealed even more. As Jason Garrett is fond of saying, it’s a process.
In 2015 it was fairly obvious Dallas needed someone to tote the rock and “the process” failed to deliver the correct RB in time. The team suffered. This season the club is staring at a deficiency in their defensive backfield. Sophomore Brown will be looked upon to step up and I’m fine with that. He produced last season so I can see the logic. Free agent signee Nolan Carroll seems to be an excellent Carr clone. Jaylon Smith is seemingly ready to step in and play LB. Frazier is chomping at the bit to show what he can do inside the box. It takes a rotation to fill a roster however and that’s what the draft will hopefully deliver (again) this season.
I understand the hue and cry for someone to put pressure on the QB. Between Tapper, Mayowa, Collins and Lawrence however I see that issue being addressed to some degree. However be it a starter or backup Dallas has to hit in the draft (which is deep in secondary talent) to fill out it’s defensive back seven. They do that and it’s game-on in 2017 for the Cowboys. They don’t and look for the Cowboys D to lead the league in passing yards given up.
What say you Sports Nation?
Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over