Looking At Dallas Past Tells Cowboys Future

Cowboy Chilling

The bane of a classical education. You are taught early the reason we study history is so we can understand our decisions from the past in order to make better ones in the future. For as human beings, we are doomed to repeat ourselves. This tool can also be used as a predictor for behavior. Here we are going to look at the Cowboys recent past in order to get a better feel for what types of pre-draft moves may still be coming out of the confines of the Star in Frisco.

So far this offseason the Dallas Cowboys have been …. deliberate. This new-norm has recent roots and can be directly correlated to improved regular season performance. In the not so distant past the blog-o-sphere would be ablaze right about now with the latest big Free Agency signing and now (because of the signing) the Cowboys are serious contenders for next season’s Super Bowl. Jerry Jones would be at his carnival-barker best whipping the media into an off-season frenzy and have the masses thoroughly convinced the recent signing and consequent over-payment of suspect talent was the missing ingredient from the previous seasons failure. I can get one time, but Jerry was able to do this groundhog day reboot for 20 years. Say what you will about Jerry the GM, Jerry the owner is sick-slick at what he does.

But that behavior is sooooo 2010.

So far this season Jason Garrett has (again) had the Cowboys taking a deliberate approach before the draft making sensible signings of second-wave, free agency players to short term contracts. If at all possible the team will sign “known” quantities, i.e. their own players or players someone on the club has personal experience with. Seems there are less surprises that way. And with the league being (very much) a cap driven one NOT making errors in free agency is critical to a clubs competitive chances. Ergo Garrett approaches March/April with a keen eye towards the draft and getting the team as flush as possible across the boards so as to not be totally driven by need come draft day.

As we see, so far this season the new Cowboys measured approach is in full bloom. Below is a table from the NFL transactions list that details the Cowboys official signings since the beginning of the month for 2017.

Dallas Cowboys 2017 Pre-Draft Free Agent Signings

3/20 Kellen Moore Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/16 Darren McFadden Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Jonathan Cooper Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/14 Stephen Paea Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Damontre Moore Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Nolan Carroll Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/11 Terrance Williams Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/24 Byron Bell Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signings).

Unlike the NFL Draft, free agency is all about need. QB Moore fills a critical need with Josh McCown choosing the Jets. RB McFadden is the preferred RB2 over Alfred Morris and Cooper is the fail-safe for the offensive line that could end up starting at LG. DT Paea got started in the league under Rod Marinelli and should be a solid rotational addition. They have been trying to sign CB Nolan Carroll for years. Terrance Williams may not get the fans love, but he is a solid WR2 who excels in the run game. That’s kind of important to the Cowboys scheme. Bell is (of course) insurance for the probable retirement of Doug Free.

The Cowboys haven’t had many free agents come though The Star this offseason. By waiting till the first-wave of players have signed the team enjoys a more receptive negotiation and the process is optimized. It’s a solid approach that has produced measurable results. However it’s still early in the process and weeks before the draft. What other moves might the team make before now and then? Let’s look back at the previous offseason to try and get a feel for what other moves the Cowboys may make before the NFL Draft, this season.

Dallas Cowboys 2016 Pre-Draft Free Agent Signings

4/28 Ronald Leary Asked to Re-Sign (asked to re-sign).
4/13 Jeff Heath No Offer Sheet Executed (no offer sheet executed).
4/5 Jack Crawford Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/31 Matt Wile Free Agent Signing (free agent signing).
3/30 Joe Looney Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/24 Benson Mayowa Acquired via First Refusal (acquired via first refusal).
3/22 Alfred Morris Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/18 Lance Dunbar Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/15 Rolando McClain Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/14 James Hanna Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/12 Morris Claiborne Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/11 Kyle Wilber Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
Cedric Thornton Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).
3/10 Josh Thomas Unrestricted Free Agent Signing (unrestricted free agent signing).

Not many. That’s the quick answer to the question in regards to future free agent signings the team may make this offseason. Last year the front office signed OL Joe Looney at this juncture of the offseason to solidify their rotation for that unit. After that the team spent the rest of April getting their own free agents (restricted and otherwise) to put pen to paper. Boring, effective.

In 2016 by the end of March the team was basically done in free agency and in 2017, you can expect more of the same. Cowboys Nation may pine to hear about a big signing before the NFL Draft, however my old history professor would be proud. Instead of blindly guessing we can look back and read the tea leaves. Regardless of perceived needs, the Cowboys are pretty much done in free agency for 2017. The players on the team now are your 2017 Dallas Cowboys. The next influx of talent for the organization will be through the draft and if history serves (it does) this is a good thing.

It’s going to be mighty crowded on the defensive side of the roster pretty soon.

Ed Note: Click here for the latest Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart

What say you Sports Nation?

Another Left Coast Sports Post: on Twitter – Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Steven Van Over

Senior Analyst, Editor, Photographer, Podcaster at SportsTalkLine
Senior Analyst, Editor, Podcaster & Photographer for @SportsTalkLine Network. Started covering the Cowboys on CowboysNation.com. Moved to the same gig here and now head the NFL desk. Catch me on Twitter @StevenVanOver
Steven Van Over
Steven Van Over

16 thoughts on “Looking At Dallas Past Tells Cowboys Future”

  1. Steve, you captured the essence of the JerryJ ticket-selling strategy in less than a paragraph. Big splash FA signing, and a glowing vision of another Lombardy trophy, which the sports media loves to hear, and write about and talk about.
    Then you summarize the bland, boring, disappointing FA signings of Coach Garrett, the Mayor of JAG City. Will the Cowboys ever again have a top-20 head coach?

  2. Football Mensa

    The formula is in place. That said the Boys have done nothing to improve via free agency. The draft must be stellar for any shot at winning the east this coming season. The draft is certainly the way to build a team using free agency only to augment a specific weakness should you have one post draft. Right now as we sit before the draft, I see the defense being worse than when 2016 ended.

    1. Carroll-Carr a wash, Paea not as good as TMac, but Tmac has only had one good season. Mo, the most talented when moved back to his natural position, but only played 47 games. Dinged in at least a fair % of those. Church and Wilcox will be missed, LB not a position of strength, no edge rusher and the o-line in somewhat a state of flux. The o-line is going to depend on Collins playing to perceived potential, and one of the three contenders stepping up at RT. Zeke needs to go into football monk mode, although so far he’s just been stupid, not criminal. The defense needs at least a starting edge guy, a safety would be nice, a 1 with some push, and at least one lb. I fear that Smith is not going to be worth that 2nd round pick, he cannot play lb wearing a brace to help with drop foot.

      1. Football Mensa

        If Smith can’t play, we’re talking huge fail on the part of Jerry. Agree with the remainder of your post.

    2. Mensa, I’m a bit more optimistic. As we have all noted many times the Cowboys defense has been a collection of JAG’s with the exception of Sean Lee. The players we lost are JAG’s and can be replaced so to my eye the D should be about the same as last year. The hope for better is in the draft and that should be absolutely doable. It’s opportunity, at least.

      1. Football Mensa

        Hard I hear ya. I was just looking at it from a bare bones package. We aren’t better than when the 2016 season ended. Building through the draft is the best way to live in the nfl. Still, even minor signings can help a team. I don’t think we’ve done that.

        1. Agreed. The cupboard is indeed pretty darn bare right now. Looking forward to the draft though. How nice would it be to hit on a DE and a CB?

          1. Football Mensa

            Hard this is a great cb draft. If we could snag a real contributor at de( Barnett) in the first then I might look to trade up in the second to get my guy at cb.

          2. Would love to get two starting quality CB’s in this draft. Agree need to go DE in first round. I would like our draft to go DE-CB-CB-DE in first 4 rounds. Even pick a third CB in a later round. Lots of good CB’s in the league are late rounders. Sturm was writing recently about how nickel and dime packages are the primary defensive alignments now. Need lots of CB’s and Safeties these days.

  3. Free agents will be cheaper after the draft. Their price falls as summer approaches. They are in OK shape this season.

    But next season, they should be ahead of the cap curve and flush with comp picks. Maybe they have figured out that managing players and cap space for draft picks is the name of the game now.

    1. Senovio Rodriguez

      Just hoping that Jerry doesn’t get antsy and do Hardy move. Even in 2015, the team was pretty “solid” until they just took a flyer on the …

      Hopefully team has learned: if you are going to spend some cash…make sure he is the RKOG and then has some talent. Turds sometimes do rise to the top…

      Okay, got most of my venom out…

      PS: I keep forgetting that maybe the team is also holding on to some cash if anything drastic happens after the last preseason game. Or after the first week of the season.

    2. Tony will be handled in some way, TCraw needs to either breakout or go, how many other bad contracts are there?

      1. Though it pains me to say it, Witten is getting expensive. Bryant is overpaid, at least IMO. But the list is dwindling, And they seem to have figured out the comp pick game, which is a great development.

        1. Football Mensa

          What te on the roster is better than Witten though ? Te has been like linebacker for Jerry. He keeps trying, never succeeding.

          1. There isn’t anyone on the roster better than Witten. I was really thinking aloud about next season when the cap and draft pick situation will be more favorable. Though I see the team just announced a restructure and extension for Witten, so there goes that thought…

  4. Senovio Rodriguez

    Without even Romo, going, how much cap room do Boys have? Keep hearing around $5MM. Or with Free officially retiring? That would be around $10MM.

    Not a whole lot. And when Romo is finally released, not too much again.

    Oh well. Although I thought they would have signed a safety by now. And hopefully a TE.

    Till next time.

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