The changes McCarthy has made thus far
Since free agency has begun, Dallas has signed free agent tackles Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, who weigh a combined a combined 646 pounds. That’s 62 more pounds of beef at the starting tackle spots, and a lot more talent.
Both defenders are former first-round draft picks, McCoy third overall in the 2010 draft, and Poe, 11th overall in the 2012 draft. Both are also former Pro Bowlers and have been paid far more than the NFL minimum, a clear reversal in operating procedure for Dallas.
Dallas signed McCoy to a three-year deal worth up to $20.25 million according to ESPN. Poe was signed to a two-year deal worth up to $10.5 million, according to spotrac.com. These are not the usual cast-offs we’ve been seeing for years.
Neither is newly signed safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He’s another former first-round draft choice, who’s been signed for real money, four million dollars, only 2.5 million of which is guaranteed, according to Keven Patra at NFL.com.
To the Cowboy’s credit, all three have been signed to reasonable contracts. If all play to expectations, the Cowboys will have upgraded all three positions, and done so for relative bargains. McCoy looks to be a particularly good deal. He’ll make about half what he made last year with the Caroline Panthers (according to the same ESPN story).
All of this indicates a change in philosophy, not only towards the defense, but towards free agency. Back in the day, owner Jerry Jones was known to sign free agents to huge contracts.
In more recent years, they’ve been parsimonious in free agency, and tardy as well, famously waiting out the first few weeks of the signing period, then plucking the bargains that remained. Dallas’s recent free agent signings all took place in the first few weeks of free agency and each managed to hit the sweet spot: quality signings for a reasonable price.
Could these smart decisions reflect McCarthy’s influence on the team? It certainly looks like it. The Cowboys haven’t signed players this early in years, and obviously not these kinds of players.
In other words, it looks like McCarthy has helped the Cowboys get significantly smarter in its approach to signings. It also looks like an improvement. I really doubt all these players would have still been available several weeks or months down the road if Dallas had stuck to its old strategy.
It also makes me wonder if McCarthy might also help the team get smarter in the draft too. Remember, though the team has made some very smart choices over the last decade, they’ve also drafted some duds in the last few years, especially on defense.
Taco Charlton, the Cowboy’s first-round draft pick in 2017 is obviously the most notorious bust. He was unceremoniously cut in preseason last year. But the team also drafted Trysten Hill last year in the second round.
Hill hardly played at all in 2019. Both players were reaches at their positions, with higher-rated players still available. Besides, everyone knows that Marinelli basically fell in love with Hill before the draft.
Those two players represent first and second round draft picks, which could have been spent on quality players, but weren’t. Could McCarthy influence the Cowboys to make smarter picks in the upcoming draft?