Experts constantly deride the theory that there is a "winner" in free agency, but the Dallas Cowboys have found a way to be the loser. As in, they now find themselves tucked away in the NFC basement like so many high school trophies.
I'm serious. Things are looking pretty dire in the Big D.
Remember, this is a team that went 8-8 last season and beat one playoff participant—the Cincinnati Bengals. That's not a solid foundation to build upon.
I understand if you don’t want to believe that the Cowboys will be bottom=dwellers in 2013. But allow me to prove it to you.
Dallas Didn't Get Better
And they didn't.
They were able to re-sign offensive lineman Phil Costa, who could be good, and they franchised outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. Both were smart moves, and Spencer is an absolute beast, as his Pro Football Focus grade of 23.0 attests to (subscription required), but neither takes the team to the next level. One was a spot contributor and both were there for last year’s so-so run.
Granted, the Cowboys didn't lose anybody significant, but they didn't improve either.
The Other Teams Trying To Climb Out Of The Cellar Did Get Better
This is where things get bleak for Dallas. Just about every other franchise that finished below the Cowboys in the NFC improved their odds of success in 2013.
The St. Louis Rams brought in an offensive line anchor in Jake Long and have a trio of high draft picks to bolster the roster. The New Orleans Saints welcomed Sean Payton's return while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are actively looking to add Darrelle Revis.
The Detroit Lions added plenty of pieces to compete in the NFC North, including Reggie Bush and Glover Quin. And the Philadelphia Eagles brought in a coach who can utilize Michael Vick well, along with recent acquisitions tight end James Casey and outside linebacker Connor Barwin.
That leaves the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals as the only two teams below the Cowboys in last year's standings that didn't improve significantly, and the Cardinals will have the energy that a new regime provides.
Keeping With Dallas Tradition
If Jerry Jones is involved, then so is the media. And that's not a good thing for a team trying to win football games.
So what distractions will Dallas trot out this year?
Well, at the time of publication, Tony Romo doesn't have a contract extension. Jones insists that the two sides are close, but if this mess lingers into training camp, the "Jones doesn't really believe in Tony Romo" stories will be everywhere.
And then there is head coach Jason Garrett. The speculation has been brewing for years about his job security, and that isn't likely to change.
So take everything we've discussed here under consideration. The Dallas Cowboys were hamstrung by the salary cap, couldn't add any talent to a mediocre roster, watched their "rivals" improve themselves and have a couple of large distractions looming.
That's not team-building chemistry. It's a Molotov cocktail.