Free Agency Review: Dallas Cowboys

Key Additions: CB Nolan Carroll ($3.3M), DT Stephen Paea ($2M), T Byron Bell ($2M), DE Damontre Moore ($830K)

Key Re-signings: WR Terrance Williams ($4.3M), Jonathan Cooper ($2M), WR Brice Butler ($1.1M),  RB Darren McFadden ($980K)

Key Losses: CB Brandon Carr (Ravens), G Ronald Leary (Broncos), S Barry Church (Jaguars), S JJ Wilcox (Buccaneers), DE Jack Crawford (Falcons), DT Terrell McClain (Redskins), CB Morris Claiborne (Jets)

Estimated Cap Space: $5.3 million

Dead Money: $3.1 million

Estimated Salary Per Year: $164.9 million for 72 players

Snaps Gained/Lost in Free Agency:

Role2016 Snaps2017 SnapsChange

Player Signings

Terrance Williams- 4 years, $17M, $9.5M guaranteed

I like this contract for the Cowboys who were probably surprised when Williams came back to Dallas. Williams numbers took a dip last season, but he really should have still been able to hit the bottom tier of the WR2 market if not for teams just being bearish on receivers in free agency. His deal is more or less in line with those of Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman and Jermaine Kearse and he was more productive than at least two of those players at signing. If there are minor quibbles here it’s that the guarantee is higher and its fair to question if they should have invested the money on defense instead. Grade: A-

Nolan Carroll- 3 years, $10M, $3M guaranteed

This is a pretty standard price for a third tier veteran corner and I have to think that is the role Dallas envisions for him this year. Dallas did something I’ve spoken about before which I think is creative and that’s making every year of the contract an official team option. That can help a team in the compensatory pick process. Would it have been nice to just pay three million this year instead of four?  Probably so but they may not have been able to do the options if that is the case.  Grade: C+

Stephen Paea- 1 years, $2M, $500K guaranteed

Paea is clearly at the stage of the career where you typically end up on one year deals and this is on par with contracts for the likes of Stefan Charles and there could be some higher upside here. Dallas did get a quarter of the contract tied to being active and while they may have been able to get that higher this was a position of need and worrying about $250,000 or so isn’t going to be worth that.  Grade: B

Jonathan Cooper- 1 year, $2M, $500K guaranteed

There is not a ton of risk involved with this since the guarantee is so small, but at this point Cooper is such damaged goods I’d think they could have saved at least $500K and done the Chance Warmack contract or just pushed for a near minimum contract. Grade: C-

Byron Bell- 1 year, $2M, $250K guaranteed

Bell missed all of last season with a bad ankle injury and this contract reads more like a $250,000 option to see if he has anything left in the tank. While Bell has not been a high level player he had started for pretty much his entire career prior to the injury so I see more benefit to this than the Cooper deal. Grade: C+

Overall Thoughts

Everyone except the most loyal of Cowboys fans knew this would be a difficult offseason. The team had a large number of free agents coming off a successful season and basically no salary cap space so there was little they could do to avoid being raided.

The Cowboys right now are running the 4th largest deficit on snaps from a season ago which basically means they need a very productive draft to fill in many gaps, specifically on defense. It would also make sense for Dallas to be involved after the mid may compensatory date cutoff to start hitting the bargain bin for veteran free agents on one year minimum salary or slightly higher contracts. It would be very surprising if they were not involved in the chase for those players.

On the positive side many of the names that Dallas lost are indeed replaceable. While Carr and Claiborne may have been the teams two most talented corners there was little reason for them to match those contracts they got elsewhere. The offensive line can certainly deal with the loss of Leary and not matching Church of McClain’s contract demands was fair. The biggest loss will likely be Doug Free who has said he is retiring though no official roster move has been made.

The Cowboys still have to make a decision on what to do with Tony Romo. If they are holding out hope for a trade they should just take whatever the best offer is from Houston even if they are worried that another Texas team could benefit. Waiting out Denver is probably not an option.  Keeping Romo would be insane and the type of decision that messes up your salary cap. Most likely they will hold him through the draft and either designate him a June 1 after that or just carry him until June 1 and then release him. They need the cap room to sign their rookies and have space for expansion of rosters in the season. I guess its possible they could wait to see if a Vikings situation occurs and they can get top compensation for Romo and have this drag into training camp but that would likely require at least one more contract restructure if they dod that.

Dallas was forced to go to the well again with multiple players to be salary cap compliant this season and it’s hard to imagine where things would be right now if Dak Prescott played like Jared Goff or Carson Wentz and looked like a rookie. Once they cut Romo and Free is officially moved to the retired list Dallas should move from the bottom 3 in projected cap room in 2018 to somewhere around 20th. While that means they are on the right path it might be one more year of quiet contracts before they are in better shape for the future. For that reason even though Dallas has a number of voids they did not address I don’t consider that a failure of their approach to free agency, but a more responsible approach to reality.

Overall Grade: B-