Dallas Cowboys: We must accept the youth movement

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Like it or not, the Dallas Cowboys are in the midst of a youth movement. It’s the reality of their roster lifecycle, a situation that is exasperated by the COVID-induced 2021 salary cap.

The Dallas Cowboys situation is no different from many other teams. They searched for players to build around. They invested and committed to said players. And now they are tasked with filling the holes around those players.

The Dallas Cowboys chose to invest and build around players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Jaylon Smith, Zack Martin, La’el Collins, and Tyron Smith. They are committed to those players, and in most cases, committed long-term.

The Dallas Cowboys don’t want veteran players on the decline – this is a youth movement

Most of Dallas’ cornerstone players are earning top-of-the-market salaries. They represent the bulk of the Cowboys payroll, leaving a fixed amount to be spread around the rest of the ranks. This type of financial situation typically results in a middleclass squeeze.

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We see it all the time around the league. Mid-level players are simply unaffordable when you’re also paying elite players. Teams opt to replace solid players with cheaper options playing on their rookie deals. Dallas has been doing this with their secondary for years. They replace expensive free agents with fresh draft classes, accepting the growing pains that come with youth and embracing the savings that comes with it. That’s where we’re at as a franchise.

Adding a veteran like Julio Jones, or Zach Ertz, or any other flavor who pops up in the news feed, doesn’t fit what the Cowboys are doing.

Adding a veteran like Julio Jones, or Zach Ertz, or any other flavor who pops up in the news feed, doesn’t fit what the Cowboys are doing. They want young and inexpensive fillers. Not players on the decline. Cowboys Nation will always be obsessed with the big names. I’m guilty of it myself having written countless articles about Earl Thomas over the years.

But at some point we have to accept where the Cowboys are at as a franchise and what Stephen Jones’ goals are for his roster.

The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a losing season with multiple players either coming off down seasons or coming back from injury. This isn’t “one piece away” territory. They have to earn that. Only then will Stephen do something stupid like bring in a high priced vet on the decline.

Keep in mind, Stephen Jones is absolutely obsessed with the salary cap. You and I know it’s mostly smoke an mirrors. We know it’s highly manipulatable and easy to work around.  But Stephen wants the franchise to make the most money possible and that’s why Dallas leaves a lot of meat on the bone each year and why he rarely uses all of his financial resources.

Fast-forward to next year and you can see Dallas is in pretty rough shape on paper. The operative words are, “on paper”. The cap is going to jump up considerably and Dallas structures their contracts to shift money year after year.  Simply by converting base salaries to bonus’ Dallas will be able to get under the cap next year. And we should also expect a couple veteran cuts to go down as well (swiiiiiipe).

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Even still, Stephen is looking at the figures and has no desire to commit money to next year (or beyond) on a descending player. It’s about building a cheap roster around the Cowboys core group, not adding more expensive players.

Would players like Julio Jones and Zach Ertz help the Dallas Cowboys? Sure (although not as much as you think), but they aren’t worth the cost in trade or the cost in salary beyond one season.

By locking up their guys, the Dallas Cowboys made their bed. Now they have to lie on it. If they perform well this year and look like they may be on the cusp, then we can expect a swing for the fences on an over-the-hill veteran. But until then, we have to accept the youth movement.

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Players are available for a reason and it’s usually because their play on the field no longer matches the price tag. We don’t need any more of those players.

  • Published on 05/25/2021 at 16:00 PM
  • Last updated at 05/25/2021 at 13:09 PM