When the NFL first started free agency back in 1993, the Dallas Cowboys used to be major players, signing the best players available on a nearly annual basis. Since the Cowboys were already a talented team on both sides of the ball, they targeted the best of the best.
After losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1994 NFCCG, Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones opened up his checkbook and signed All Pro cornerback Deion Sanders to a seven-year $35 million dollar contract ($12.9 million signing bonus). See, Deion was the difference maker in the 49ers dethroning the Dallas Cowboys from winning their third consecutive Super Bowl in that disappointing loss on the road in San Francisco.
So, Jerry offered more money than his nemesis and the Cowboys went on to win their third Lombardi Trophy in four years. Jerry would continue to lure top free agents to the “Big D” over the years, but none of those signings came as close to the signing of Deion, one the best Hall of Famers to ever play in the NFL.
However, once Stephen Jones got involved, those big time free agents signings dried up like one of Jerry’s oil fields.
The Dallas Cowboys returned to their roots and are building a championship roster through the draft by hitting consistently on top-notch players.
Some Dallas Cowboys fans might not know this, but this team has drafted the second most Pro Bowlers in the last decade only behind the Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs. Surprised huh?
This current regime under Jerry and Stephen have returned to their roots to do their best to recapture their glory days of winning Super Bowls.
It’s surprising because the Chiefs under Andy Reid have won seven straight AFC West division titles, played in five straight AFC West Championship games, and are 2-1 in the Super Bowl during their historic run.
If Dallas is second to the Chiefs in drafting Pro Bowlers but have nothing to show for it except a couple NFC East divisional titles, one would like to know why haven’t the Dallas Cowboys achieved the same type of success as the runner up?
It’s a really good question but Dallas is on the right path to achieving the same type of success because they are doing it organically by drafting elite talent on a yearly basis. In fact, long before free agency was introduced in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys built their storied franchise through the draft with Tom Landry and the great general manager Tex Schramm identifying talent and developing it.
It paid off because it produced five Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl titles, and several Hall of Famers-including 20 straight winning seasons (still a record). Hence, the term “America’s Team was born. This system is working for Dallas now as they have won 25 games in the last two seasons and had seven players receive Pro Bowl bids in 2022.
Good drafting saves money
By Dallas drafting talented players and signing good UDFAs (undrafted free agents) on a regular basis, they have the luxury of re-signing their own players ( CeeDee Lamb, Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs) and not using free agency as tool to get better. I’ll talk about free agency later on in this article.
Those three players are cornerstones to Dallas achieving massive success!
When a team like the Dallas Cowboys draft promising athletes consistently, not only does it inject young talent into the team and address a need, it is similar to how a college football powerhouse like the Georgia Bulldogs/Alabama Crimson Tide stockpile talent with five-star All Americans.
The starters ball out and when they leave the younger players replace them with the same production and then some. For example, Dallas won’t re-sign cornerback Anthony Brown because second-year corner DaRon Bland is better and led the team in interceptions (5). And Jourdan Lewis is expected to return, giving the defense an experienced, ball-hawking secondary.
Dallas cannot afford do that if Bland isn’t good, but since Bland exceeded expectations as a fifth rounder, it allows the front office to continue to draft the best player available and build for depth purposes. By Dallas seeing the potential to draft a fifth rounder like Bland, they are literally playing with “house money” because of Bland’s rookie deal.
However, Dallas’ front office can easily extend Bland before his rookie deal expires and his stock rises even higher. The same goes for Jalen Tolbert, who reportedly looks impressive in the OTAs. If Tolbert takes the next step as a reliable, productive wide receiver, the Dallas Cowboys will certainly move on from Michael Gallup-especially if he does not produces.
This only happens when a team drafts so well.
The financial competency of drafting elite talent is cost-effective and allows the Dallas Cowboys to allocate money usefully in long-term contracts (Dak Prescott) for the best players and preserve the flexibility of the salary cap-something “Cap Boy Jones” (Stephen) has notoriously mastered. Fans give “Cap Boy Jones” a hard time but the key to building a Super-Bowl caliber team requires meticulous financial management, and using the draft successfully is actually better than free agency.
The Dallas Cowboys and Free Agency
As I stated in top of the article, I will briefly discuss free agency. When used correctly, free agency is one of the best tools a team can use to win a championship. Free agency should be used “in addition to” the draft to beef up a championship roster-not used as the primary source of winning a Super Bowl like the Los Angeles Rams did in 2021.
Yes, I am all for the Dallas Cowboys adding the right player to the roster like a Dalvin Cook if the money is right because Cook will surely give Dallas the edge in a wide-open NFC. But because Dallas drafted so well, they are not in a desperate situation to sign Cook. Sometimes, desperation for a player can equate to separation of a team’s ultimate goals.
I know some critic is asking, “well if the Dallas Cowboys have drafted so many Pro Bowlers dating way back to 2005, what is stopping them from advancing beyond the second round of the playoffs?” Honestly, Dallas has suffered the same sad misfortunes so many teams across all sports face that they have no control over: either incredible plays by opponents or an awful call.
Those losses had nothing to do with the talent on the field because in the 2016 playoffs against the Green Bay Packers, The Grinch (Aaron Rodgers) completed an incredible sideline pass on third and long to put the Packers in field goal position to beat Dallas. Two years before that in 2014 on the road in Green Bay, Dez Bryant’s touchdown reception was nullified as no catch (and the NFL changed the rule). And the most recent losses to the 49ers is a combination of things but it is not because a lack of talent.
sidenote: The Dallas Cowboys have addressed every position of need and will bring back an improved defense that features the “X” factor on defense in Sam Williams. Read fellow writer John Herdon’s article about Williams in the link below.
The second year stud has the ability to tally double-digit sacks. Add in the massive defensive tackle Mazi Smith, and this defense could be one of the best in franchise history with its ability to sack the quarterback, stop the run, limit scoring and lead the league in takeaways for the third consecutive year. My Gawd!
The Dallas Cowboys are using the NFL draft to their advantage with arguably one of the best personnel departments in the league, thanks to keen eye of Will McClay-Vice President of player personnel. Building a championship roster through the draft fosters a chemistry among the coaching staff and players that is underrated in the overall success of winning a Super Bowl.
The best example is the NBA where the newly crowned Denver Nuggets won their first NBA championship in franchise history by leaning heavily on two of their drafted players-Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The same goes for the Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs. All of those franchises focused on the draft to win NBA championships.
The Dallas Cowboys became America’s Team by drafting unique players on a consistent basis. This current regime under Jerry and Stephen have returned to their roots to do their best to recapture their glory days of winning Super Bowls.
Remember, history repeats itself and drafting organically is the best proof ever for this proud franchise. Now that is something to get excited about as we approach the 2023 season.
- Published on 06/15/2023 at 12:29 PM
- Last updated at 06/15/2023 at 12:29 PM