Why the Dallas Cowboys are about to get active in Free Agency

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t exactly been making headlines in free agency this year. As with most years, they’ve been more scavenger than hunter. Instead of hunting for the top free agents on the market, Dallas has preferred to scavenge over other teams’ discards.

In a year where the NFC East division is wide open, and the Cowboys are the only team employing a legit franchise quarterback, it’s understandable fans have been upset with the Cowboys’ lack of activity in free agency. After all, playoff windows don’t open like this often and Dallas may be wasting a golden opportunity.

But look at the calendar. We may be getting ahead of ourselves a bit…

The Dallas Cowboys have been known to wait until after the compensatory period ends to sign free agents.

The Dallas Cowboys know how to play the compensatory game as good as anyone in the NFL these days. Basically, if your team loses more quality free agents than they sign, they get compensated a year later with free mid-sound picks.

Compensatory picks were initially created to help teams with money troubles keep their rosters full during the years they couldn’t afford to sign or keep free agents. But it quickly morphed into a tool to gain extra draft resources for those willing to sit back and be opportunists.  Like the Dallas Cowboys.

Which brings us to “second free agency.”

The compensatory formula spans over specific dates. Any free agent signings outside of those dates is immune to the formula. The dates this year span from the start of free agency until April 27th. That means any free agent Dallas signs after the 27th, are no longer held against the count.

The Dallas Cowboys have a history of signing players after that compensatory period ends. Just last year they inked Daryl Worley and Andy Dalton in second free agency. By waiting, Dallas was able to snag a couple extra picks in the draft.

We optimistically expect the same from them this year. With plenty of starting caliber free agents left on the market, the Dallas Cowboys will have plenty of options. And based on some verbal agreements they’ve made in the past, there’s a good chance they have one or two deals lined up already.

Chances are, we probably won’t see any signings until after the NFL Draft (May 2 or after). Players have waited this long on the market, it only makes sense they wait and see how the draft shakes out. I mean, no one wants to sign with a team to be their starter, and then see that same team invest a top pick in rookie who plays the same position.

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So someone like CB Casey Hayward wouldn’t want to sign with the Cowboys and then watch Dallas draft Patrick Surtain II with Pick 10. That would be a bad situation for for a veteran CB. But if he saw Dallas skip the CB position with their top few picks, he might see Dallas as an ideal location. The same goes for any other veteran waiting on the market.

It’s possible the Dallas Cowboys have a wink and handshake deal with someone on the market already, and the only thing left is to sign and submit a deal. It’s also possible Dallas is just waiting until the bell tolls the 28th of April. Whatever the situation, Dallas has a reputation for being players in the after-hours market of free agency and fans should be marginally excited for it.

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The compensatory deadline is fast approaching and the Dallas Cowboys figure to be players in the second phase of free agency. Who do you think they’ll sign?