5 Moves Dallas Cowboys Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
Outside of the signing of defensive tackle Henry Melton, it was an offseason of moves not made for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either; for so long, the Cowboys were overly active in free agency, which often transformed into a losing proposition.
Many free agents are necessarily overpaid because they get to test the market—the team that signs them is an outlier in that it was the one willing to yield the most resources to acquire that player—so the best teams continually build via the draft.
Nonetheless, there have been some moves the Cowboys haven’t made that could perhaps come back to bite them. Let’s take a look at the top five moves the ‘Boys have failed to address (up to this point) that might haunt them down the line.
1. Not Re-Signing DE Anthony Spencer
The Cowboys could very well bring back defensive end Anthony Spencer in 2014. Spencer apparently hasn’t drawn very much interest on the free-agent market, and he currently sits atop RotoWorld’s list of the top available defensive ends.
Dallas shouldn’t be willing to give Spencer much guaranteed money, but it’s looking like he won’t command that anywhere. The reason the Cowboys need to consider re-signing Spencer is he represents flexibility.
As it stands right now, the Cowboys have a very obvious hole at defensive end. George Selvie has some upside as a No. 2 rusher, but he can’t be counted on for No. 1 production. With Spencer on the roster, the Cowboys can feel a whole lot more comfortable with the position—and won’t need to reach on a defensive end in the draft.
2. Not Thinking Outside the Box with the Coaching Staff
The Cowboys have approximately 150 coaches on the staff, and no one is really sure what each of them will be doing this year. Perhaps that could be considered “outside-the-box” thinking in that normally there’s a clear coaching structure.
The Philadelphia Eagles—the team that appears primed to become and remain the class of the NFC East—went with an untraditional hire in Chip Kelly, and it paid (and will continue to pay) off.
Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t at all appear to be the creative mind many once considered him when his reign in Dallas began. The addition of Scott Linehan as the offensive coordinator, although perhaps an upgrade from Garrett and Bill Callahan, isn’t going to drastically change the fortunes of this team.
How many times do we see the same coaches get hired and rehired again and again in the NFL? Are we really supposed to believe there are only a few dozen minds in the world capable of creatively leading an offense, defense or entire team? Until the Cowboys bring in a coach who isn’t afraid to deviate from “conventional” football wisdom—someone like current Auburn coach Gus Malzahn—they’re going to be stuck in a cycle of mediocrity.
3. Bypassing a Running Back in the Draft
The Cowboys obviously haven’t had a chance to bypass a running back in the draft yet, so this is a wait-and-see situation. Running back might not seem like the biggest position of need, and it isn’t…yet. With DeMarco Murray becoming a free agent in 2015 and no one behind him capable of becoming a lead back in the NFL, though, Dallas needs to find its running back of the future.
That doesn’t mean spending an early round pick on a player, though. Since 2000, running backs drafted after the second round have actually had a higher yards per carry than those drafted in the first 64 picks. That’s pretty amazing, showing how poor NFL teams are at drafting running backs.
The thing is, teams should know they aren’t any good at identifying running back talent and act accordingly. In any random environment, it makes sense to 1) maximize opportunities and 2) pay as little as possible. Thus, Dallas should draft a mid/late-round rookie running back, and perhaps sign an undrafted free agent, too.
Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon and Towson’s Terrance West are two small-school players whose measurables and college background suggest they’re going to offer big-time value in 2014.
4. Failing to Address Right Tackle
Right tackle Doug Free began the 2013 season hot, so people kind of overlooked the fact he was horrific over the last 10 games or so. Even after allowing only four pressures in the first five games, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Free still allowed more total pressures than all but eight right tackles. So is it more likely Free has had a few stretches of solid play but is otherwise a poor offensive lineman, or that he’s a great player who has underachieved magnificently for a few seasons?
Time isn’t up just yet, however. The Cowboys probably recognize Free is a weakness and needs to be replaced (as soon as this year). That’s probably why Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com reported the ‘Boys are considering moving Free to guard if they can land an offensive tackle early in the draft.
Although it’s not considered a likely choice by most, don’t be shocked to see Dallas draft a player like Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin in the first round. If Pitt’s Aaron Donald is off of the board, Martin might very well be the most likely pick for Dallas.
5. Not Locking Up OT Tyron Smith to a Long-Term Deal
Left tackle Tyron Smith will be a free agent in 2015. The Cowboys are going to sign him to a long-term deal eventually, but it looks like they’ll wait until during or after this season to do it.
It’s not a horrible idea to wait for Smith’s rookie deal to end before handing him an extension, but it also comes with risk. Smith is still just 23 years old and won’t turn 24 until December. To say he has a high ceiling is an understatement, and there’s really good reason to believe Smith—who didn’t even play left tackle at USC—is going to continue to improve in a big way.
If Smith continues his upward career trajectory in 2014, he’s going to cost a pretty penny as a free agent. Even though that’s already the case, a really strong 2014 campaign could send Smith’s value through the roof. By not inking him now, Dallas is risking Smith’s contract moving from “top-tier” to “league-leading.”
Wide receiver Dez Bryant will become a free agent in 2015 as well, so why not sign him now, too? It’s an option, but you could argue Bryant is unlikely to improve upon the 93/1,233/13 line he posted last season, especially with increased defensive attention. Of the two players, Smith is far more likely to see a jump in his level of play, meaning the value Dallas can obtain on him could disappear.