Exactly one month ago, it seemed as though the Dallas Cowboys were content going along with a long-range plan they had set for themselves.
The league’s leading rusher and Offensive Player of the Year was allowed to sign with the biggest of divisional rivals essentially over the difference of $8 million in guaranteed money.
The free agents that they did sign were all guys who were brought in for depth purposes and largely considered role players at best. Most of those pick ups will not be in the starting lineup unless injuries deplete their specific units.
Cowboys fans were left with being proud of their team for showing fiscal responsibility and focused on the draft as it seemed that this year’s free agency period would come and go with just minor tweaks being made.
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That was all just the calm before the storm.
Six days after DeMarco Murray left town, the Dallas Cowboys signed defensive end Greg Hardy and all of a sudden, the defense got a huge boost. Suddenly, a bonafide threat was back on the defensive line. Consider the line upgraded.
The month of April kicked off with the re-signing of last season’s leading tackler in linebacker Rolando McClain. That move solidified the linebacker corps, putting all of the pieces in place to allow fellow linebacker Sean Lee to move over to his natural weak side spot. It also means that newcomers Andrew Gachkar and Jasper Brinkley can battle it out with Anthony Hitches for the strong side spot or fill in as backups.
Shortly after, quarterback Tony Romo had his contract restructured to provide the Cowboys with an extra $13 million dollars in cap space for this season.
Of course, that immediately put more fuel onto the fire that is the long-rumored plans of current Vikings running back Adrian Peterson continuing his career in a Dallas Cowboys uniform. MMQB’s Peter King wrote a piece on it earlier this week.
Lastly, it appears that the Cowboys are leaning towards choosing a cornerback with their first round draft pick. As such, one of those options just might be the talented but troubled Marcus Peters from the University of Washington. Dallas had representatives at his pro day last week so they are at least doing their due diligence.
What does all this mean for the Cowboys?
It means that 2015 may just be an “all-in” year.
We all know about Hardy’s past transgressions. Typically, these are the types of players that head coach Jason Garrett has tried to weed out of the roster, pointing to the need of having the “right types of guys” on this team.
Apparently, a day or two of spending time with Hardy was enough to that convince the Cowboys brass he is that type of guy. Twenty-six sacks in two years from a guy in his football prime doesn’t hurt either.
Anyone with access to the internet can find stories about Peters failing a drug test as a redshirt freshman, his suspension for a quarter from a bowl game, his four-week ban from offseason training the following year or his on-field blow up which ultimately led to his dismal from the Huskies football program.
All of that will likely be forgotten if he happens to fall to the 27th spot. 11 interceptions and 30 passes defensed in three years tends to help with the selective memory process.
We all know the gamble that Peterson would be. Sure, it’s nice to think about having a former MVP toting the rock behind one of the best offensive lines in the game. It’s also a bit worrisome to think about having a running back, already with a torn ACL in his past, in his 30’s and making $45 million over the next three years.
Still, you don’t hear anyone high up in the organization shutting down the rumor mill once and for all, do you?
We all know the risk involved with restructuring Romo’s contract. There was a point in time when Executive Vice President Stephen Jones publicly was on record for not wanting to do it saying:
"“Obviously you don’t like to mortgage your future if you can help it. We started making the move toward being a younger team and going a different direction in terms of pushing money out, so we’d prefer not to do that.”"
Now that it is done, the Cowboys are on the hook for higher cap figures the next four years for a quarterback over the age of 35 with multiple back surgeries in his recent past.
That flash of light you just saw was the era of fiscal responsibility coming and going just like that.
With all that being said, neither Peters nor Peterson is a Cowboy just yet but I have to believe no fan of this team would mind either joining Hardy if it means that on February 7, 2016, this team in the NFC representative in the 50th Super Bowl.
It certainly appears that the Cowboys are willing to push their chips all-in. Let’s all just hope it’s the right play.