Cowboy Nation, this is how an NFL off season is supposed to be – Boring and Splash Free. I declared last year to be the Dallas Cowboys best off season in a decade. I remember calling last year a “franchise changer” and I wrote –
"“Only time will tell, but this is the first time Jerry Jones has shown the ability to prepare the team for success with players in the present and provide a sound financial future. He’s secured younger and experienced players at reasonable salaries this off-season. We’ve never been able to say that.”"
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That philosophy from the front office resulted in the 2014 Cowboys finishing the season with a 12 – 4 record and a playoff win. There weren’t any “splash” free agency signings. From the looks of things, those days are officially over.
While all roads in Dallas runs through Owner / GM Jerry Jones, there’s a detour that passes Chief Operating Officer / Executive Vice President / Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones. Stephen Jones has been described as having a business first approach, devoid of emotional attachment. He would be the father that benches his son so the little league team has the best chance to win.
It’s not all Stephen Jones, I believe we can thank former Cowboys defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (Jay the Rat). In 2011, Ratliff signed a 7 year contract worth $48.625 million. There was $17.5 million guaranteed and a signing bonus worth $10 million.
In 2012, The Rat missed seven games while nursing a supposed groin injury. Reportedly, Jerry Jones shared some innocent and encouraging words to Ratliff similar to “We need you” or “Can’t wait to see you on the field again”. This caused a skirmish in the Cowboys locker room and Ratliff had to be restraint. I’d have put my money on Jerry Jones though.
That was the snowball that started avalanche. Ratliff’s contract was terminated on October 16th, but a week later he was cleared to play for other teams. Ratliff signed a one year contract with the Chicago Bears on November 2nd. He took the field for the Chicago Bears on December 1st.
That experience may have caused Jerry Jones to wonder about other players he gave pots of gold too but suffered or claimed to have suffered injuries. Like my facebook page if the first player you thought of was wide receiver Miles Austin. Austin signed a 6 year contract worth $54 million. Austin didn’t get a chance to test his hamstrings with the Cleveland Browns which ended with a lacerated kidney.
Jerry Jones may have openly questioned Austin’s hamstrings and Ratliff’s groin. Those mumblings didn’t fall on the deaf ears of his son Stephen Jones. As a result, with the younger Jones it’s all business. That’s why defensive end / linebacker DeMarcus Ware was released. That’s why the Cowboys didn’t get into a bidding war to retain running back DeMarco Murray.
Our Cowboys are focused on not overpaying players. They are investing in quality draft picks and developing players in-house. They want players that can accept the team first concept. Players that are coachable. They want head coach Jason Garrett‘s right kind of guy, which Garrett described as:
“There’s personal character, there’s football character, there’s work ethic, there’s passion for the game, all those things. And we literally grade the players on that. We grade our own players on that. We grade the players coming into the league on those things.”
The percentages of our new formula will be revealed if the Cowboys sign current free agent defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy would be an obvious upgrade from defensive end Anthony Spencer. I think Michael Sam would’ve been an upgrade last season.
Hardy isn’t a “splash” signing. He hasn’t been on an NFL field since opening week of the 2014 season. He’s a risk / reward player like middle linebacker Rolando McClain. Hardy’s addition makes drafting a defensive end less of a priority. His expected six week suspension will provide valuable on field experience for injured 2014 draft pick, defensive end Ben Gardner. If Hardy isn’t “the right kind of guy”, the new front office won’t allow his contract to break the bank.
The Dallas Cowboys’ front office has a new philosophy. It may not result in exciting off seasons, but there’s no denying that it is, has been and I predict will be extremely effective.