Since the start of free agency last week, the Dallas Cowboys stuck to their usual plan and did not sign any big-time free agents to a long-term deal. OBJ (Odell Beckham, Jr) was linked to the Cowboys to upgrade their wide receivers unit. But instead of signing him to a lengthy contract, the Cowboys actually did one better when they added WR Brandin Cooks.
Just like the famed magician Harry Houdini, the Cowboys tricked the Houston Texans into trading wide receiver Brandin Cooks to them for a 5th rounder in 2023 and a 6th rounder in 2024. Then the Cowboys really did a “Houdini” trick when the Texans agreed to pay $6 million of Cooks’ $18 million dollar salary. Which left the Cowboys on the hook for $12 million of Cooks’ salary, but then the Cowboys turned $8 million of Cooks’ $12 million base salary into a signing bonus, making Cooks’ salary $4 million. The Brilliance..,My Gawd!
Before that trade they surprised the world when they traded for former DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year) Stephon Gilmore to pair with their own All Pro cornerback, Trevon Diggs. These were the kinds of moves not even the legendary Nostradamus could have predicted.
With these smart and sneaky trades, the Dallas Cowboys are making major moves to win it all right now for a change
A sense of urgency to win now
After allowing the San Francisco 49ers end their playoffs two years in a row and witnessing those evil Philadelphia Eagles represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, the Dallas Cowboys vowed to correct that problem by re-signing their own best free agent players and trading for Gilmore and Cooks to shore up their secondary and receiving corps.
Normally, Jerry Jones and Stephen Jones would wait until the end of free agency to sign a decent free agent on the cheap to fill in a position of need. But when the Joneses traded for two really good players, it sent a message that this team wants to win it all right now while the opportunity is there.
Stephen’s bargain bin approach to free agency worked in this favor because he traded for two legitimate players that realistically were worth more than a 5th round and 6th round pick.
Gilmore is still a top-10 defensive back at age 32 and Cooks still has six 1,000 receiving yard seasons in his nine-year career. So, realistically those two could have garnered a pick as high as a third. Something the Texans wanted from Dallas last year.
For all of the well-deserved criticism the Joneses have received for their front office decisions, they get credit for recognizing and understanding the urgency to stay ahead of their inferior NFC opponents and to leapfrog the ones ahead of them-the Eagles and 49ers. With Aaron Rodgers likely playing for the New York Jets next season and Tom Brady permanently retired, the NFC is as wide open as the Atlantic Ocean.
Dallas’ front office immediately retained its best free agent players/contributors: Tony Pollard (franchise tag), Leighton Vander Esch (LB), Donovan Wilson (S), Dante Fowler (DE), Tyron Smith (LT), C.J. Goodwin (CB/Special Teams Ace), and Cooper Rush to name a few. Then followed up with other one-year, low-level signings with running back Ronald Jones and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga, who can play tackle and guard.
The beauty of the Gilmore/Cooks trades is that Dallas did not give up any of their top draft capital that they seem to guard like Fort Knox. Dallas’ front office believes draft capital is the foundation of building a championship-caliber team and will not be swayed to give it up unless it is for a true tide-changer like Amari Cooper back in 2018. I mean the front office values second and third round picks like first round picks because it produced starting quality players on cheap deals.
With their premium draft picks secured, Dallas has positioned themselves to draft the BPA (best player available) and not reach for a need. But with their tenacious trade approach and depending on how the draft unfolds, Dallas can trade up for player they view as a day one starter.
For sake of argument, let’s say elite defensive tackle Jalen Carter’s draft stock falls (because of an off the field incident for drag racing) and is within striking distance for Dallas to make a move. Dallas could easily trade up for the once perceived number one draft pick. Not only would Carter be a day one starter, but he would fulfill a great need as a defensive tackle.
And Carter is worth trading up for if he is there. Realistically speaking, I do not expect Carter to fall that far, but you never know because the NFL draft can be so unpredictable.
And this notion could work for other top-rated players like Will Anderson, Jr (edge), Tyree Wilson (edge), Peter Skoronski (ot), Jaxon Smith-Njigba (wr), and Joey Porter, Jr (cb). All it takes is for one team to make an unexpected trade for the dominoes to fall in Dallas’ favor. Based off of Dallas ‘aggressive offseason approach, anything is possible on draft day.
Anything is possible.
Even though OBJ, Hopkins and any other player of their ilk no longer appear to be on Dallas’ radar, that does not mean they’re completely out of the picture. If OBJ comes off his high price demands and goes unsigned, don’t be surprised if Jerry jumps at the opportunity to sign him to team friendly deal. That is probably what Jerry is hoping for.
The same goes for Hopkins if the Arizona Cardinals start the 2023 season with him on the roster. Teams become desperate and will settle, meaning Dallas could still trade for Hopkins to bolster chances of making a Super Bowl run. Like I stated earlier, it does not have to be those two in particular because there are several players like them Dallas could make a move on.
It has been a long time since the Dallas Cowboys were this aggressive in the trade market. You would have to go back to the Jimmy Johnson era to at least find a comparable example of this team making these types of trades to upgrade their roster.
And it goes beyond trades because Dallas is signing players to fit the vision of head coach Mike McCarthy, who made it clear that he is building a team on physicality and toughness on both sides of the ball. In order to do that, cutting the beloved Ezekiel Elliott had to happen to make way for Pollard and the rest of the up-and-coming players.