Once upon a time, the Dallas Cowboys were big spenders in free agency. I mean big time players in the free agency game. In 1995, Ole Jerry Jones, owner/general manger of the Cowboys, signed free agent and one day Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, to a five-year $30 million dollar contract to play defensive back, return kicks and even play as a wide receiver.
At the time it was seen as a big deal to sign Sanders to such a large contract (with a $12 million dollar signing bonus). Critics moaned at how the Dallas Cowboys had mortgaged their future on a non-quarterback position.
In addition, Jerry had just signed a sponsorship deal with Nike, so not only did Jerry have the means to afford Sanders services, but Jerry out-bidded Sanders’ former team, the San Francisco 49ers. It was a big deal to Jerry to sign Sanders to a massive contract because the Cowboys and 49ers were bitter rivals, and the Cowboys were coming off of an emotional loss to the 49ers in the 1994 NFC Championship game.
The Dallas Cowboys must abandon their bargain hunting strategy in free agency
By signing Sanders, the Dallas Cowboys had shifted the power in the NFC. And the expensive signing of Sanders was proven well worth it because the Cowboys would eventually win their third Super Bowl in a four-year span.
Those days are long gone and never to return because the Dallas Cowboys are no longer big spenders in the free agency sweepstakes, regardless of how much Jerry and Stephen claim they want to win a Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys are bargain buyers in free agency and it clearly defeats the purpose of this franchise ever winning anything besides an occasional playoff game.
Stephen, the man I affectionately call “cheap”, is the complete opposite of Jerry when it comes to paying top dollar for elite free agents. To Jerry’s credit, he was willing to pay for a game-changer like Sanders because he saw the reward in his investment: a Super Bowl ring and other big time plays “Prime Time” made for the Cowboys.
Until Stephen and Jerry stop shopping at Goodwill for their free agents, the Dallas Cowboys will fail to become contenders
Stephen, on the other hand, shops for players like my late Granddad shopped for winter jackets – at the Goodwill Thrifty store. Those who’ve been thrift store shopping know, sometimes you luck out and find treasure in someone’s trash, but more times than not, you end up with something out-of-date, past it’s prime, and unfortunately, oddly scented.
For example, in 2020, Stephen signed free agents, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Everson Griffen, Darian Thompson, Maurice Canady, Kai Forbath, and a few others. That group of free agents either was solid at best or had seen its best years behind them and was on the downside of their career.
Clinton-Dix was supposed to man down the safety position, but was cut before the season even started. Poe was cut, Griffen traded to the Detroit Lions for a sixth rounder, and McCoy was cut because of a season-ending injury. The six-time Pro Bowler McCoy was the cream of that class and was supposed to be well-rounded veteran in the middle Dallas so much needed. He fell to injury in very first practice.
Paying mid-level talent and expecting Pro Bowl results, is a delusion. It’s like financial planning with lottery tickets. Below average talent won’t win you many games.
Signing big time free agents can literally change a team from mediocre to elite over night, especially the defense. For instance, the Green Bay Packers signed free agent linebackers Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith and safety Adrian Amos all in free agency and effectively transformed their team into contenders overnight.
The Packers weren’t shy in spending money on its defense as it signed Za’Darius to a four-year, $66 million deal with a $20 million signing bonus. Then signed Preston to a four-year, $52 million deal with a $16 million signing bonus, and Amos was signed to a four-year, $37 million that with $21 million guaranteed in the first two years of the contract.
Translation: $57 million to upgrade the Packers defense, pushing it up to 9th and13th, respectively, and helping the team to two NFC Championship appearances.
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Those three players has had a positive impact on the Packers defense and team as a whole. It was money wisely spent on key positions. The Packers forced the great Tom Brady into three interceptions in the NFC Championship game.
Besides, if not for indecisive coaching, the Packers could be the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Dallas has done a fantastic job in re-signing its own free agents (except Byron Jones and Dak Prescott), but there’s a saying that “scared money doesn’t make any money”.
You can apply that quote to any capitalist institution, especially the NFL. But until Stephen and Jerry stop being scared of spending money on elite free agents, the Dallas Cowboys will continue to bargain shop at the NFL’s version of a Goodwill thrift store looking for elite talent.
- Published on 02/04/2021 at 12:01 PM
- Last updated at 02/04/2021 at 09:12 AM