The 2023-2024 NFL season officially begins in just a couple of days and that means free agency also begins. The new league year begins on Wednesday, March 15 at 4 p.m. eastern time.
The Cowboys should actively be looking to make a splash on the free agent market right when it opens on Wednesday. But recent history suggests that the Cowboys likely won’t be spending big once again.
Last offseason, Dallas re-signed several in-house free agents including Jayron Kearse, Dorance Armstrong, Michael Gallup, and Malik Hooker to extensions. The only outside free agents that the Cowboys went after were James Washington, Ryan Nall, and Dante Fowler Jr, all on one-year contracts.
In 2021, the Cowboys followed a similar pattern. They signed Dak Prescott and Jourdan Lewis to multi-year contracts and signed multiple free agents on one-year deals (Carlos Watkins, Brent Urban, Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, Ty Nsekhe, Hooker, and Kearse).
Recently, Dallas appears to be fully on board with offering cheap, one-year contracts to players looking to prove themselves. The Cowboys would love to get back Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson, but likely in their eyes, they can replace them with cheap rental deals.
Since the Cowboys are limited against the cap space, they can’t afford to pay either player a lot per year. That’s just the reality.
But Dan Quinn and the Cowboys have had a good eye on finding free agents to contribute on one-year contracts. They will likely be in another position to sign a handful of cheap players once again on defense.
3 cost-effective free agents Cowboys should sign in 2023
3. Anthony Walker Jr., LB
If the reports are true that the Cowboys and Vander Esch haven’t made any progress on a new deal, then Dallas will be looking to replace him this upcoming season.
The Cowboys will still have Damone Clark and Jabril Cox for next season, two players that could see more playing time in 2023. But Dallas should be looking to sign Anthony Walker Jr., a player just one year removed from a 113-tackle season.
Walker re-signed with the Browns on a one-year deal for $4.2 million last offseason. But a torn quad tendon limited his season to just three games.
Still, at 27 years old, Walker might look for another one-year deal to prove himself after missing basically all of last season. Spotrac projects Walker to sign a one-year, $4.4 million this offseason, which could be a bargain for the Cowboys.
The former Northwestern product has produced 100-plus tackles in three of his last four full NFL seasons. He’s a quick linebacker that hits the hole hard to make plays. Walker also has a history of being a solid run-stopper, something the Cowboys could desperately use.
Dallas ranked 24th last season in rush yards allowed per game at 124.4 and ranked 20th in 2021. Walker helped the Browns in 2021 finish as a top-12 unit in that department and helped the Colts finish second-best in 2020.
If the Cowboys lose Vander Esch to another team, Walker could be a solid cheap rental for 2023.