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Cowboys DOs & DON’Ts of free agency (PART III): Finding high-potential rewards in low-risk bargain signings

For a quick reminder of what we covered thus far, here is a peek at the two previous parts on this series:

Part I:

  • DO extend DeMarcus Lawrence as quick as possible
  • DON’T pay high dollar for a slot receiver
  • DO explore the entirety of the safety market, Earl Thomas included
  • DON’T spend big money for a defensive tackle

Part II:

Top of the line talents typically come with top of the market price tags, which is why some teams are so put off by free agent spending. Paying a player for what he did instead of what he will do is always the risk taken when fishing in the free agency pond. With that said, there are always bargains to be had if teams look hard enough and the Cowboys have benefited from their fair share in the past.

What’s most intriguing about this year’s free agent class is the quality of NFL names on the market. For some players in 2018, they only found one-year deals instead of long-term commitments, which spit them right back out into this year’s pool. For others, they may have extensive injury concerns that drops the asking price. Then, there will also be a group of players that find themselves afterthoughts in a crowded market altogether. After seeing such an in-flux of one-year signings last season, you can’t help but wonder if that’s where free agency may eventually be headed in the future.

DO look for a potential upgrade at kicker

The Cowboys had all sorts of problems in the red zone but missed opportunities by a poor special teams unit was also damaging.

Brett Maher started off the season red-hot, making 15 consecutive field goals at one point. However, as the season wore on, he became wildly inconsistent, missing six attempts of less than 40 yards. Maher has a strong leg and did rather well on 50+ yard attempts but the Cowboys may want to look for an upgrade in free agency.

Here are the current unrestricted free agents compared with Brett Maher last season.

NFL
Rank
Player Age G 20-29 Yds

30-39 Yds

40-49 Yds 50+ Yds Att. Made FG% XP%
1 Robbie Gould 36 16 9-9 13-13 9-10 2-2 34 33 97.1% 93.1%
3 Matt Bryant 43 13 4-4 5-5 7-7 4-5 21 20 95.2% 94.3%
6 Jason Myers 27 16 4-4 12-13 11-12 6-7 36 33 91.7% 90.9%
19 Stephen Gostkowski 34 16 11-11 10-10 4-6 2-5 32 27 84.4% 98.0%
25 Brett Maher 29 16 10-10 6-8 7-11 6-7 36 29 80.6% 97.0%

Brett Maher’s 81% is not ideal for a team that plays in a lot of close games though the Cowboys were fortunate to win most of them. If the front office can swing a deal for a more reliable option, it’s one less area to have to worry about.

DON’T sign or trade for players/positions of little use

The Cowboys made a trade for a fullback last year and it was not the best use of their resources. Jamize Olawale was supposed to play a role in the passing game but nothing ever transpired with that. Jason Garrett is insistent that a fullback is needed for his offense but Olawale is not the right fit. Fullback is a dying position and has been for a while, an affinity for guys like Daryl “Moose” Johnston is understandable but this game isn’t played that way anymore.

There are several teams that use a fullback but only a handful have success with their fullbacks. Instead of trading for a fullback this year, maybe look at finding someone who can make plays in the return game, the Cowboys certainly need it.

DO consider a veteran backup quarterback behind Dak Prescott

This is not so much about a concern for Dak Prescott’s health as he’s a durable, strong, and tough quarterback, his style of play dictates that. This is more of a suggestion in efforts to have a veteran behind your young emerging franchise leader. Someone that has played some games in the last five or so seasons and isn’t already his coach.

Dak Prescott would benefit from going to the sideline and having someone with a little more NFL experience than him to talk to. A guy that has seen a lot of NFL football and can help Dak deal with in-game situations. A veteran backup presence is valuable to a young, developing quarterback. The Cowboys don’t have to go out and sign Teddy Bridgewater but an Austin Davis, Sean Mannion, or Brett Hundley-type could suffice.

DON’T be afraid to take a risk on injury or age in the right situation

Much is made about how youthful the Cowboys are and the front office is proud to have one of the youngest squads in the NFL. We always hear talks of not paying age but at some positions, you might find a great bargain. So many teams have found great production off one or two key signings with a player that may be considered washed up.

Just because a guy might be over 30-years old doesn’t mean he can’t play a role and significantly boost your roster depth. The same can be said for injured guys who have the ability but won’t be able to get guaranteed paydays due to availability.

There will be a few possible one-year rentals to consider in both categories:

RB Adrian Peterson: Piggy-backing off my podcast pal, Tom Ryle, AP still has tread on the tires and value to offer. We know that it’s the Ezekiel Elliott-show in Dallas but what’s going on behind him? Too often, when Elliott needed a break for a series, the Cowboys weren’t effective running the football with Rod Smith. If Peterson can be had for a reasonable number, why not?

RB Bilal Powell: Again, get a running back behind Elliott that is capable of moving the chains or with Powell, a guy that offers up some receiving ability.

DT Terrell McClain: The Cowboys are familiar with McClain and his injury concerns but he was an effective two-way defensive tackle. It’s unlikely he will command much on the open market.

TE Tyler Eifert: He’s about as complete a tight end as you’re going to find but man has he missed a lot of football, 53 games to be exact. Since being drafted, Eifert has been a playmaker for Andy Dalton but he’s never played a full season. Still, if you can get the Eifert that played 13 games and had 13 touchdowns in 2015, sign me up. The Cowboys got three touchdowns out of Blake Jarwin in one game, they had only one more tight end score outside of that for the season.

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