The first week of free agency is winding down and the Dallas Cowboys did what they usually do. Sit pat and let the players come to them. They ended the week signing back their own guys in Terrance Williams and Brice Butler along with former Cleveland Brown Stephen Paea, former Philadelphia Eagle Nolan Carroll, and former Seattle Seahawk Damontre Moore. Nothing real surprising other than the front office deciding to bring back both Butler and Williams shooting the need at wide receiver way down the priority list.

Familiar Faces

Terrance Williams was brought back on a 4 year – $17 Million dollar deal with the Cowboys a day after signing back wide receiver Brice Butler. Williams has been a reliable number two receiver for the Cowboys offense through his first four year in Dallas putting up better numbers and more consistent play than a lot of fans give him credit for. Williams contract is a steal for the Cowboys when you look at the numbers he has put up so far in his career. Playing in every single game since coming out of Baylor in the 3rd round Williams has 177 receptions, 2,791 yards, and 20 touchdowns.

Brice Butler was brought back on a deal that lets him prove himself and costs the Cowboys little to nothing. Butler has had`his ups and downs as a Dallas Cowboys since being traded for in 2015 from the Raiders. Butler has been a decent backup and has made some huge plays along with some real head scratchers for the Cowboys in his short stint here. Butler signed a 1 year – $1.1 Million dollar contract with only $300,000 of that guaranteed. This signing allows the Cowboys to not HAVE to spend a draft pick at the wide receiver position in 2017.

New Additions 

Stephen Paea, a back-up/rotational player for the Cleveland Browns signed a 1 year- $2 Million dollar contract. Paea was drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft by the Chicago Bears. Paea notched 11.5 sacks for the Rod Marinelli coached defense in his four years with Chicago before getting signed by the Washington Redskins as a free agent in 2015. Paea played just one season in Washington appearing in 11 games and registering 1.5 sacks. Paea was released by Washington and signed to Cleveland’s roster just a few days after his release playing in 13 games for the Browns and finishing the season with 0.5 sack and 6 tackles. Paea will likely play the same role in Dallas that he did for Cleveland. Paea and Thornton will likely split most of the 1 technique reps with more of pass rushing threat being substituted in for Thornton or Paea on passing downs.

Nolan Carroll has received the biggest contract out of the guys coming in from a former team. Carroll signed himself a 3 year – $10 Million dollar contract with the Eagles division rivals. Carroll, a 30 year old veteran started his career in Miami with the Dolphins then landed with the Eagles in 2014 where he’s spent the last three seasons in Philadelphia. Carroll is a big, fast, physical corner and provides quality depth for the Dallas secondary lacking both talent and depth right now.

Last but not least we have Damontre Moore. Moore was selected in the 3rd round by the New York Giants in 2013 and has yet to find a consistent home. Bouncing from the Giants to the Dolphins to the Raiders to the Seahawks, I’d like to think Moore is ready to leave the past in the rear-view mirror and begin a bright new future as a Dallas Cowboy. Moore fits in at right defensive end in the Cowboys defensive scheme. Moore’s NFL production has never quite matched his college production but fitting in with the Cowboys simple “go get the quarterback” scheme may allow the former 3rd round pick a shot at redemption.

While none of these signing would be considered “bad” none of them are huge additions either (excluding the Terrance Williams signing). Butler provides quality depth at the wide receiver position. Paea will play an equal role to what Cedric Thornton played last year. Nolan Carroll will be a depth option at cornerback likely being the third or fourth option. And Damontre Moore is by no means a lock to make the roster.

See You On The Other Side

Now that we discussed how additions will fit in, we need to discuss how big the departures were.
Doug FreeWe’ll start on the offensive side of the ball. The biggest loss the Cowboys had this free agency period was a guy who wasn’t a free agent. Doug Free. After 10 seasons wearing the star the 33 year old veteran finally decided to call it quits. Free informed the team on Sunday that he has decided to retire leaving a gaping hole at right tackle. People may suggest that Chaz Green slide in and fill his spot at right tackle and while he has the talent to do so you simply cannot rely on Green to stay healthy enough to hand him the starting job. Some may suggest moving Collins out to tackle and having someone else fill in at guard. I for one do not think Collins is a tackle in the NFL and would not want to move him there even if you had an adequate replacement at right guard. Along with losing Free the Cowboys also lost another starting offensive lineman in Ron Leary. Leary signed with the Bronco’s and while that stung a little bit La’el Collins has shown his ability to start and be highly productive in the NFL.

Now on the defensive side of the ball. Losing BOTH Barry Church to the Jaguars and J.J. Wilcox to the Buccaneers hurt a lot in my opinion. Church was the only play maker on the field for the Cowboys last season, when Church was out so were the turnovers so losing that captain at the back end of a defense will be hard to replace. Then you lose his replacment in Wilcox to Tampa Bay and that just adds salt to the wound. Wilcox is by no means an All-Pro but anybody who has eyes and likes football could see Wilcox starting to make significant improvements in his angles, his coverage, and his big hitting ability. With both the starting safety and his replacement gone that leaves Jeff Heath and Jack CrawfordKavon Frazier as the two options to be the Cowboys starting strong safety come training-camp.

Another huge blow on the defense was losing starting defensive tackle Terrell McClain to the Redskins. McClain was easily the most consistent player along the defensive line last year having the most tackles out of all the defensive linemen. McClain’s ability to work sideline to sideline to track down runners is something Stephen Paea will not be able to do. The Cowboys also lost versatile defensive lineman Jack Crawford to the Falcons. Crawford didn’t necessarily do anything great but filled his role well as a rotational guy who can play both inside and outside. Damontre Moore is likely going to fill his footsteps as a guy who will play mainly on the edge but rush from the inside on passing downs.

With Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr looking to find their fits somewhere else the Cowboys are currently looking for quality help at safety, tight end, running back, and linebacker while also needing high level starters at right tackle, cornerback, and defensive end that makes for a lot of holes to fill with only seven draft picks as of now and a majority of the talented free agents already with new homes. Heading into the second week of free agency and inching closer to the draft the Cowboys current priority list in my opinion should look something like this:

Position Priority List

  1. Right Tackle
  2. Cornerback
  3. Safety
  4. Defensive End
  5. Linebacker
  6. Running Back
  7. Tight End

That “upgrading the pass rush” plan everyone (including me) has been preaching about for years now may have take the back seat to other positions depending on how the rest of the off-season goes. And don’t let me fool you, we all knew this was how the Cowboys would handle free agency, but when you have your starting right tackle and multiple guys you figured would be back leave your plan sometimes needs to change, unfortunately that’s not how the Jones’s work anymore. We will have to rest our faith in the front office to make a little magic happen in order to get back to a “Super-Bowl Contender” team….

 

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  • Football Mensa

    You don’t win superbowls with Paea’s, He’s a downgrade from McClain. Dallas needs to get very lucky in the draft. Moore is one of the biggest meh singings this offseason.This is why you don’t squander games like we did vs Green Bay.

    • Daz Bryant #88

      Squander? Oh that’s right, we refused to feed Ezekiel, and we lost as a result.

      Thanks for the reminder.

  • Taylor

    Just saw that Dunbar has signed with the Rams. Wish we had kept the Jackson kid and let Dunbar go. Rams will be disappointed.

  • Michael

    Given their limited resources, I think the front office did a good job of plugging the holes left by FA. With 20 FAs and very little cap space, you have to grade on a curve this offseason.

    If they have another good draft and make some bargain pickups after June 1st, they should be right back in the swing of things. And better, next season their salary cap problem should lessen considerably. They need to continue to build a core of young guys around Prescott and fill in the holes with veterans.

    • Taylor

      Agreed. Free will be missed, but Cleary was pretty good in his outing, Green might shake the injury bug. I will be surprised if Collins or Martin are kicked out, they both lack ideal length and do not take the best guard in football and change his position. Church was pretty good, TMac and Wilcox JAGs. All overpaid. Draft a good pass rusher or two, safety early, I think we’ll be fine.

      • Michael

        I think they will miss Leary’s power next season. They just resigned Cooper but he is more of a move guy. I bet they find a way to keep Collins at LG and go with a combo of Green and a draftee/FA at RT.

        Church got paid like a good player. But he is a box safety and those guys can be replaced. It will be more difficult to replace Carr and Claiborne, they were quietly very good last season. I would try to keep Claiborne if the price was right. A good move would be to replace Church and Carr with faster players, nether of thse guys was a speed demon. Getting some speed on the backend (and maybe Jaylon Smith at LB) would help tighten up the coverage.

        • housedj75

          I think they’ll miss more than Leary’s power. They’ll miss his attitude. To my eyes, they played w/ a nastier disposition when Leary was in as opposed to Collins.

  • Kevin Black

    There are still plenty of FA moves to make long before the Draft. As for the OL, I don’t think this is the draft to go after one unfortunately. Dallas will have to make do with in-house options. We may well be crossing our fingers and hoping that Green or McCleary can make it for a year. If not, don’t be surprised to see Collins swing out and move Cooper into his spot or even push out Martin and have Cooper slip in there. If you want a possible mid- to late- round pick, look up Connor McDermott. He’s a former TE moved to OT. He still needs some weight room work, but he could be a more than serviceable OT, much like Free.

    Running back will be addressed in FA, so it won’t be the need we think it is. Linebacker is fine for now. It will need to be addressed next year as Lee will be 30 then, but has a lot of tread on his tires. Still, Wilson has really come on strong, so it might not be as pressing as we think. As for TE, keep a VERY close eye on Gathers. He was wearing out our defense with Tony Romo running the team. He even eventually earned some first team reps at the end of the year and even volunteered to play tackle during some scout team work amassing more than 100+ reps.

    Cornerback is a position that will be addressed in the draft and very likely in round one. My guess is Fabian Moreau from UCLA. He’ll be much like Brown and Jones in that he will need to be worked in slowly. Nolan Carroll will be able to man the RCB and Brown the LCB during nickel and perhaps standard depending on how Scandrick progresses. He was still struggling a bit last year, but that had more to do with him getting re-acclimated than ability. A full offseason should bring him back to 100%. Still, both Scandrick and Carroll are going to be on the wrong side of 30 next year, so having a starting caliber corner from this draft will be critical. Don’t be surprised if they pick up a slot-capable one later in the draft, like Corn Elder.

    Safety will be addressed in the draft is my guess. This is considered a low-priority position for Dallas due to the style of defense they play. Frazier was even drafted to replace Wilcox or Church last year. I don’t believe they thought they would need to replace both at the same time though. Still, we only need one more to finish out the defensive backfield. Where is anyone’s guess at this point. I know a lot of people like Melifonwu, but he won’t be available when the Cowboys draft in the second round. I believe he will end up in Seattle before he reaches us.

    As for the edge rushers, it’s nuts how many are in this draft that could be productive. A late round option that might surprise people is Joe Mathis from Washington. He was injured in November last year, but until his injury, he was one of the absolute best at being in the opponents backfield. He also won’t need the recovery that some others will need after they have surgery pre- post- combine. He probably won’t be ready for OTAs, but I believe he’ll be ready by training camp.

    Remember one key stat: The teams that win FA will rarely win much else. There have been exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between.

  • McShrek

    Very well stated, and unfortunately right on point!!!! If they get lucky, drafting a pass rushing monster is still a top priority as is a shut down corner……………but the right tackle spot could be key…………Boys have taken a significant hit this past week………