The improvised all-in: The strange Free Agency of the Dallas Cowboys

The first big wave of Free Agency in the NFL is over and the Dallas Cowboys had some important decisions to make. In addition to star cornerback Byron Jones, the team lost more support in defense and relied heavily on experienced players as replacements.

The Free Agency of the Dallas Cowboys was anything but optimal.

Although a long-term agreement was reached with wide receiver Amari Cooper and star quarterback Dak Prescott was awarded the franchise day, some of the supporters in the defense were lost.

The cowboys under Mike McCarthy
The Dallas Cowboys responded to the lack of success and dismissed Head Coach Jason Garrett at the turn of the year after nine years. With Mike McCarthy, the opposite of a young or fresh coach is coming to Texas, but his style could still suit the Cowboys.

With the Green Bay Packers he formed a superstar out of Aaron Rodgers, with Dak Prescott he has another diamond to grind. McCarthy’s system is not about beauty, but about effectiveness and maximum success.

In addition, Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore, one of last season’s bright spots, returns with Prescott and co., who scored the most yards per game of any NFL team.

McCarthy made it clear from the outset that he has certain ideas about players who will wear the jersey with the star on their chest in the future. “When you have a new defensive system that requires certain types of players, it’s clear that you have to limit yourself in terms of personnel,” he said about the threat of leaving this Free Agency. “We are betting on size and athleticism”.

Lack of money on the defensive
And in fact, the cowboys had to part with some of the top performers. Due to the missed contract extension of Dak Prescott as well as the partly too expensive extensions with Running Back Ezekiel Elliott or Defensive End Demarcus Lawrence the Cowboys built up their Cap Space enormously.

As a result, many of the building blocks of the deep defensive lineup also wanted to be paid and looked for a new sporting home this off-season. The best example of this is star cornerback Byron Jones, who has become the highest-paid corner of the NFL for the Miami Dolphins. Jones will earn a whopping 82 million dollars on South Beach over the next five years.

Defensive End Robert Quinn also left the Texans this off-season and signed a five-year contract with the Chicago Bears, earning him a total of 70 million dollars. Last season Quinn was the best pass rush player in Dallas with 11.5 sacks. Both Jones and Quinn will be hard to replace.

New system instead of individual class
The fact that players like Jones or Quinn were allowed to go on defense could also be a hint for the new defensive style McCarthy wants to go with the Cowboys. In keeping with this, he hired Mike Nolan, former linebacker coach of the New Orleans Saints, as the new defensive coordinator. The defensive line in particular is to be improved in the run stop and less emphasis is placed on coverage.

The squad composition also seemed to have been less than ideal despite the high quality. Too many chiefs, too little commitment. Defensive End Demarcus Lawrence harshly summed up the situation with the Cowboys after missing the playoffs last season.

“Just talent without direction leads nowhere in the end,” he grumbled after the decisive defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles.

McCarthy also shows that he can plan personnel with the extension of Center Joe Looney’s contract to replace superstar Travis Frederick. What at first was seen as an unnecessary addition turns out to be a forward-looking measure in retrospect. Already in the 2018 season Looney replaced Frederick due to a serious illness and convinced. Looney is considered a capable center in the NFL despite many years of replacement role.

Veterans for the defense
Of course, the cowboys were not idle at the market and could provide for one or two surprises. They fulfilled McCarthy’s wishes and with Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe they signed two defensive tackles of the brand Mass and Power.

With McCoy, “America’s Team” gets an experienced tackle who could convince in pass rush as well as in run stop. Dontari Poe on the other hand fits perfectly into the new defensive scheme as an excellent run stopper.

Players who meet McCarthy’s expectations.

“I need players who have experience and know all about play. That’s the mindset and the skills we’re looking for.”

With less emphasis on coverage in the future, Maurice Canady has been found a low-cost cornerback alternative to Byron Jones. In the safety position, the signing of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also brought about an improvement in tackling after Jeff Heath left for the Las Vegas Raiders.

One of the most striking features of the new defensive engagements is the advanced age of the Free Agents, so the known engagements are all around 30 years or older. Thus, the cowboys are exchanging strong individual personalities for many years of NFL experience. From a neutral point of view, this meant a loss of defensive quality, but the foundations for a new, stable defensive framework were nevertheless laid.

Forced confidence in offensive weapons
In the coming season the cowboys will pay the offensive trio around Prescott, Elliott and Cooper more than 50 million US dollars, in the following years the sum will probably rise to 70 million US dollars. With this, the Cowboys have committed themselves financially to their offensive cornerstones, now this must also be done in the game plan.

At least in the Free Agency the basic measures for this have been taken.

The tight ends in Dallas have been more of an additional offensive line than a receiving option in the last two seasons. With the departure of Jason Witten and the extensions of Blake Jarwin and Blake Bell, which are often used as blocking tight ends, McCarthy also shows his confidence in the run game around superstar Ezekiel Elliott, who will probably also be used as a workhorse in the coming season. Although McCarthy was less interested in the run in the Packers, he is now adapting to the existing weapons in Dallas.

All in all it was a strange free agency for the Cowboys. In the short term the team lost quality, but in the long run the Cowboys could even benefit from the rebuilding. The next step will be to extend Dak Prescott’s contract for the long term, so that trust is also secured in this position.

If McCarthy and the team can find each other, the Cowboys will be a serious play-off contender in the coming season.

2 years ago
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