As expected, some familiar names won’t be returning to the Dallas Cowboys, however a few fresh faces were added in the first few days of free agency.
With 21 free agents and minimal cap space heading into 2017, the Dallas Cowboys were setup for a roster makeover. Losing some or even most of these players was not going to come as shock.
What was surprising, however, is the money that some now former Cowboys were given in the first days of free agency.
The biggest changes so far for the Cowboys have come on the defensive side of the ball.
I’m not sure anyone could expect linemen Terrell McClain or Jack Crawford to command the money they received. McClain chose to stay in the division, signing with Washington for $21M over four years with $11M guaranteed. Crawford signed with the Falcons for $10.3M over three years.
Neither player has ever made more than $1M in any given season prior to these signings.
A pair of safeties also cashed in on the free agent frenzy. Barry Church chose Jacksonville as his new destination thanks to a four year deal for over $6M per season. Meanwhile, J.J. Wilcox as went to Florida, signing with Tampa Bay for two years and roughly $8M total.
Both of those deals will also be record high yearly paydays for the former Dallas Cowboys duo.
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I don’t believe that Dallas would have or should have tried to match such offers, even if they were capable to do so financially. Crawford is an overachiever but still more of a situational player. McClain and Church are good players. Neither should be one of your ten highest paid guys, however.
If the Dallas Cowboys would have agreed to those terms with either player, that is exactly what they would have been.
Instead, the Cowboys brought in reinforcements by signing former Browns defensive tackle Stephen Paea on a one year deal. After that, they inked former Giants third round draft pick Damontre Moore to bolster the defensive line.
Terms of Moore’s deal are currently unknown. I will guarantee you though that both he and Paea will make less money combined than McClain will in 2017. That is exactly how you stay ahead of the cap.
And, for those of you who may think that Dallas took a step back in talent, realize this fact. Paea has the same number of sacks (14) that Crawford and McClain do combined. Moore adds another ten on his own.
Offensively, many had a belief that the Cowboys would need to spend a high draft pick to make up for losses at the receiver position. Instead, both Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are coming back to Dallas for less money than they could have received elsewhere.
Butler signed a one year deal for $1.1M while Williams is back for four years worth $17M, with $9.5M guaranteed.
Both of these deals are immensely helpful for Dallas given the market so far. Take a look at the other receiver deals compared to Williams:
Pierre Garcon – 4 years, $47.5M, $17M guaranteed, previous three year average of 856 yards and 4 TD’s.
Robert Woods – 5 years, $39M, $15M guaranteed, previous three year average of 621 yards and 3 TD’s.
Kenny Britt – 4 years, $32.5M, $17M guaranteed, previous three year average of 810 yards and 4 TD’s.
Meanwhile, Williams has posted an average of 685 yards in 5 touchdowns since 2014 while playing in an offense that has featured the league’s leading rusher twice.
While the receiving unit will largely remain the same, changes are coming which may test the strength of the offense, however.
We kind of knew that guard Ron Leary was going to get a nice deal. A four year, $36M deal with $18.5 guaranteed from the Denver Broncos affirmed that suspicion. The surprise here was yesterday’s announcement that fellow offensive lineman Doug Free is retiring.
If there is any good news to this, Dallas does have in-house options to replace both at a fraction of the price.
La’el Collins will assume the starting guard position, making just over $600K in 2017. Collins was starting previously before an injury-riddled season last year. At tackle, Chaz Green steps in for Free at the cost of just $600K as well. Free was set to make $5M this season so including Leary’s $2.5M salary for 2017, the Cowboys end up saving a little over $6M with these moves.
After one week in free agency, all in all, I think the Dallas Cowboys have done fairly well. They have weathered expected losses and already have contingencies in place. Dallas is still in a position, cap-wise, to address other needs while focusing on the draft to make key improvements.
Let’s just hope the remainder of this crazy time will continue to be as positive.