How the Dallas Cowboys became contenders again

Jun 13, 2017; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones (second from left) watches his team during minicamp at The Star at Cowboys World Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Frisco, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones (second from left) watches his team during minicamp at The Star at Cowboys World Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports /

Several factors go into a team having the fortune of having a Championship window.  Here’s a look into how it all broke right for the Dallas Cowboys

There are several key factors that go into building a team that compete for a Super Bowl title.  Some are certainly within a franchise’s control.  Others can best be described as luck.

For the Dallas Cowboys, they have had a healthy mixture of both.  Thanks to these situations, the window of opportunity to win a sixth Lombardi trophy is wide open.

Starting with the draft, the Cowboys have arguably been the best drafting team of the decade.  In the past seven years, Dallas has chosen seven different players that went on to be named to an All-Pro team.

There have been only two drafts, 2012 and 2015, where at least player did not become an All-Pro.  Adding that much talent via the draft has been a catalyst for a rebuild that has helped the Cowboys stay relevant while getting younger.

That’s no small feat, especially in today’s NFL.

Another aspect that has been extremely helpful has been the cognizant effort to address the salary cap.  For almost as long as I can remember, the Cowboys were seemingly in “cap hell.”

Over the past three years, however, Dallas has made a concerted effort to not spend big money in free agency.  This has not had a negative effect on their success, though, as the Cowboys have used free agency wisely.

Instead of giving out big contracts to players who are available for a reason, the Cowboys have gone in a different direction.  Dallas has utilized this period to add solid veterans that may not be flashy but produce nonetheless.

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In 2014, the Cowboys signed defense linemen Terrell McClain and Jeremy Mincey.  McClain never made more than $1 million per season.  Mincey made $3 million total.  They combined to produce 9.5 sacks and while Mincey retired, McClain got paid handsomely this offseason.

In 2015, Dallas added running back Darren McFadden for a grand total of $3 million over two years.  How did that work out?  Well, McFadden bridged the gap between DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott, gaining 1,089 yards and finishing fourth in the league in rushing.

Last year, the Cowboys spent a whopping $700K on defensive end Benson Mayowa.  In return, they got a guy who led the entire team in sacks.

Health has also been a key factor for the Cowboys.  The “big three” of the offensive line have been on the field together for every game but three since 2014.  Linebacker Sean Lee has only missed three games in two years as well, one of which was due to the game being unnecessary.

The biggest factor for the Dallas Cowboys, however, may just be plain good fortune.

It is the rare situation that sees a team have a smooth transition from one franchise quarterback to another.  Unless you are Green Bay or Indianapolis, once you lose a franchise quarterback, it takes a while to find another one.

For the Cowboys, theirs fell into their lap, even with them trying every which way to avoid it.

By now, you know the story.  Dallas frantically attempted to trade into the first round of the 2016 Draft to acquire Paxton Lynch.  Thankfully for them, the Denver Broncos gave up more to Seattle to step in the way.  The next apple of their eye was Connor Cook from Michigan State.

The same exact scenario takes place, however, as Oakland offers more in a trade, “winning” the right to draft Cook.  Lo and behold, Dak Prescott falls squarely into their laps in the fourth round with the 135th pick overall.

Of course, that was not all that went right for Dallas.  In order to stumble into their next face of the franchise, timely injuries also came about.  Backup Kellen Moore breaks his ankle early on in training camp, then superstar Tony Romo injures his back in his first preseason game.

Voila!  Insert Dak Prescott.

Not only do the Cowboys luck into a decade or so of no worries at quarterback, they get an even bigger gift.

Next season, Prescott will be the 30th highest paid starting quarterback.  While division rivals Washington and the New York Giants pay almost $45 million combined to their guys, Dak will take home $680K.

Dallas gets another two years after this with Prescott earning less than $1 million either season before they even have to worry about extending his contract.

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, right?

Next: The top 30 moments in Dallas Cowboys history

However you want to look at it, the Dallas Cowboys have had a nice mix of shrewd maneuvers, great scouting, top notch drafting, health and luck.  Hopefully, they can use all of these positives to bring home another title while their hand is hot.