Has the Dallas Cowboys’ free agency really been that bad?

Jayron Kearse, Dallas Cowboys (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Jayron Kearse, Dallas Cowboys (Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Dallas Cowboys, DeMarcus Lawrence
Dallas Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

Discussing the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive free agent signings to see whether they were helpful or not

While not a true free agent signing, the best deal of the 2022 offseason thus far would not have been possible without a wonderful amount of loyalty from the player who agreed to the move. After rumors of asking defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to take a pay cut or face possibly being released, Lawrence gave the Cowboys huge cap relief by re-doing his existing deal.

Lawrence provided Dallas with $13 million in cap space for 2022 while guaranteeing himself $30 million over the next three seasons. He likely would have earned more on the open market, given some of the other deals provided to similar players. Instead, Lawrence decided to stay home and did the team a massive solid. That deserves noting in my book.

The Cowboys’ first defensive signing was to bring back safety Malik Hooker for two years at $7 million. Hooker played well last season in a rotation but has clout as a former first-round draft pick. Dallas took it easy with him, easing him into action as Hooker rebounded from a torn Achilles. With a full offseason to truly regain form, this is a low-risk, high-reward move that I’ll give a B+ grade.

Dallas continued down the path of bringing back their own by re-signing defensive end Dorance Armstrong to a two-year, $12 million deal, which could possibly be just a one-year deal for $6.5 million. This move may be the hardest to assess as it feels like a “too little, too late” response to the failure that was the Gregory fiasco.

Yes, Armstrong had his best season in 2021, registering 5.0 sacks. However, there are plenty of other defenders in the NFL who are still available who are equal or better than Armstrong and also have a longer history of consistency that could have been inked. Still, I can’t give this move anything better than a C grade.

The Cowboys continued to add to their defensive line depth, bringing back Carlos Watkins on a one-year, $1.04 million deal and another former first-rounder in Dante Fowler, Jr. for one year and $3 million.

Watkins represents the same type of deal as Sprinkle, only slightly better, which will earn it a B- grade. Fowler, meanwhile, had one dynamic season, surrounded by several middling years. But at just 27 years of age, Dallas is hoping there is at least one more great season in him which also makes this a B- move.