What We've Learned About Dallas Cowboys After the Start of Free Agency
The organization has had to make some tough decisions already, but it looks as if it is finally making smart decisions as well. For the first time since the offseason that brought Brandon Carr to town, the Cowboys have some money in free agency. The reason for that is that the team is making tough but financially savvy decisions.
So, what have we learned about the Cowboys so far this free agency? A whole lot. Let's take a look at what what Jerry Jones and Co. have been up to down on Valley Ranch and what it all means going forward.
Dallas Is Making the Tough Decisions
DeMarcus Ware is a Denver Bronco, and Miles Austin has been designated a post-June 1 cut, per David Helman of the Dallas Cowboys' website. Releasing both players saved the Cowboys more than $12 million toward this year's salary cap.
It is a hard decision for any front office to cut its all-time leader in sacks and a productive undrafted free agent like Ware and Austin. Sometimes, the hardest decisions are the ones that make the most sense, though.
Losing two players who helped this team win multiple games will be tough for most fans to swallow, but it comes with a silver lining at least. Moving on from both players will allow Dallas to fix multiple holes personnel-wise in free agency and the draft.
Dallas should have spent last offseason working on getting its financial situation in order to prevent losing a future Hall of Famer in Ware. The fact that Jerry Jones was able to realize it made more sense to cut No. 94 than restructure his deal, though, is a good sign going forward.
When Jerry Jones finally took stand on morality, it cost him Randy Moss in draft. When he finally takes control of spending, it costs DWare— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) March 12, 2014
Ware will be a big loss going forward, but the Cowboys now have space to bring in more than a few talented veterans.
Jerry Jones Isn't Looking to Make a Big-Splash Signing
No NFL owner loves the spotlight more than Jerry Jones, but it seems his team isn't looking to land this free-agency period's white whale.
The Cowboys have been known in recent years to throw around big money to sign names just as big. Just ask Brandon Carr and Terrell Owens. This offseason doesn't have the same feel as those that brought Carr and Owens to town, however.
This free-agency period feels like it will be one filled with under-the-radar signings and maybe one coveted name. Dallas surely would like to land defensive tackle Henry Melton, but the team will also be looking into the likes of cheaper and lesser-known names.
Cowboys are targeting Henry Melton. Like now. Lot of mutual interest. Could happen quickly.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) March 11, 2014
Jones seems to finally be making savvy decisions and resisting the urge to blow all the money he just saved by cutting DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin.
Depth Is on the Mind
The Cowboys have lost two big names so far this free-agency period, but they have brought in two new ones as well. The team has officially signed former Houston Texans defensive tackle Terrell McClain, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN, and former Denver Broncos defensive end Jeremy Mincey, per Rowan Kavner of the team's official site.
Neither player will have a line of fans waiting to buy his jersey, but both add depth to the defensive line. McClain will serve as depth for Nick Hayden at defensive tackle and was a third-round pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2011. Mincey has recorded 20 sacks in 66 career NFL games. Eight of those sacks came when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars during the 2011 season.
With Ware and possibly Anthony Spencer gone, the Cowboys are suddenly dying for depth at defensive end. Mincey is a step toward adding that much-need extra help at the position.
Front Office Trying to Stretch Its Money
Bringing in guys like Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey shows that the Cowboys want to bring in depth but also stretch their cash. Signing the two players couldn't have cost Dallas much to acquire.
Cheap signings like McClain and Mincey allow the Cowboys to fix a defense that needs new blood but also keeps the team in the running for a Henry Melton or Jason Hatcher.
If Dallas plays its cards right, there is no reason it can't bring in a few more cheap veterans while landing Melton, Hatcher or Anthony Spencer in the process.
It is even possible that the team might elect to give itself some breathing room financially for next offseason. Dez Bryant and others are going to need to be re-signed, and Dallas can't be strapped for cash when that time comes.
Team Clearly Hoping for 1 Big Signing
The Cowboys have the money to grab one, maybe two guys on the level of Melton, Spencer and Hatcher.
Dallas is clearly counting its quarters more heavily than usual this offseason. Don't think that doesn't mean Jerry Jones doesn't have the urge to bring one notable player to his team this free agency, though.
Melton would be the Cowboys' perfect replacement for Hatcher. He is younger, plays defensive tackle and is familiar with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. The two players, as well as Spencer, also have the same agent, Jordan Woy.
Woy told Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas back on Feb. 26 that Melton does have interest in joining the Cowboys, as he's from Dallas. To Jones' likely dismay, however, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting Melton is off to meet with Minnesota Vikings March 13:
Bears DT Henry Melton is scheduled to visit Minnesota on Thursday, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
Dallas needs one big-name signing this free agency, and it needs to be on the defensive line. The money the team has saved by cutting some past greats puts it in position to land Melton, Spencer, Hatcher or even two of the three.
If the Brandon Carr, Drew Bledsoe and Terrell Owens signings over the years prove anything, it's that Jones knows how to sell his team to free agents. The owner definitely wants to land at least one of those three players with his new-found money.
It would be hard to believe if he couldn't find a way to land one of these guys this offseason.