The crazy first month of free agency in the NFL is ending, and most teams are starting to transition into getting ready for the NFL draft in April. Huge name players change up the scenery and moved on to a new team. Some of the big signings that occurred during the month of March include Alshon Jeffery going to the Eagles, Brandon Marshall going to the Giants, Desean Jackson to the Buccaneers, Eddie Lacy to the Seahawks, and A.J. Bouye going to the Jaguars.
Certain teams made some big moves during this month, while other were quiet. The Jaguars made a big splash in free agency on the defensive side by adding Calais Campbell, and Barry Church in addition to A.J. Bouye. The Patriots also found ways to get even better than what they were a year ago, adding deep threat Brandon Cooks, with the addition to Dwayne Allen, Stephon Gilmore, and resigning Dont’a Hightower. Even the Packers made a huge addition by acquiring Martellus Bennett, who are usually very quiet when it comes to making moves in free agency.
But if any team has lost some big names this offseason, it has been the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have stayed quiet with their signings through the first month, but have seen almost their entire secondary gone from last year. As previously mentioned, Barry Church departed to the Jaguars, but they also saw Brandon Carr sign with the Ravens, Morris Claiborne sign with the Jets, J.J. Wilcox sign with the Buccaneers, Terrell McClain sign with the Redskins, and Jack Crawford sign with the Falcons. This is just on the defensive side, for they also saw losses on the offensive line with Doug Free retiring and Ronald Leary signing with the Broncos. Tony Romo has still not been released by Dallas, but it sounds like he is down to either signing with the Texans or retiring.
Many analysist looks at what happened to Dallas as a huge blow on their chances of being contenders next year. These departures will have an impact on their team next year, but there should still be no panic in the Big D. Doug Free is a big name that comes up since he was part of one of the best lines in all of football, but he was definitely the weak point out of that wall. Free caused 8 penalties, 5 of which that were holds, which was the most out of every single player on the Cowboys. Dallas might go after a tackle with one of their picks in the early round of the draft, but they could easily have the answer already in place with their new signing of Byron Bell or Chaz Green, who was a third-round pick in the 2015 draft. Ronal Leary should have been expected to depart, considering he only started due to an injury from La’el Collins, and would have most likely bumped Leary out of a starter position this upcoming season. Leary played great in Collins’ absence, and proved that there was no necessity for Dallas to rush Collins back from injury last season, but Collins is clearly looked at as a future starter on the line from his performance during his rookie season.
There should be no panic from the losses suffered on Dallas’ defensive line with the departure of Jack Crawford and Terrell McClain. Crawford was nothing more than a reliable back up, and McClain was probably one of the most overpaid players in free agency in correlation to the amount of snaps he has played in his career. With the emergence of David Irving at the end of last season, and the return of Demarcus Lawrence after his 4 game suspension, the amount of snaps for Crawford and McClain would have continued to drop in the 2017 season. On top of this, Dallas is counting on their second-round pick from 2016, Jaylon Smith, to play in the upcoming season. Smith could have easily been a top 10 pick last year, but dropped to Dallas in the second round due to a knee injury that kept him out his entire rookie season. So there is still a ton of potential that this kid has at the linebacker position. On top of this, Dallas has added former Eagles defensive tackle, Cedric Thornton, and former Brown, Stephen Paea, which complete dilutes any panic of losing either Crawford or McClain.
The part of the Cowboys that suffered the most losses his free agency was the secondary, yet there still is no need to panic. As Previously mentioned, Dallas lost 4 players in the secondary to free agency, which includes Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox. In reality, the only player that Dallas will be upset about losing is Barry Church. This hard-hitting machine was one of their best players on defense when healthy, and will be their biggest loss from the team. J.J. Wilcox was also known as a very physical playmaker, who will solely be missed because of the loss of Church in front of him, but there was no way Dallas would pay him the money that Tampa Bay gave him, especially considering he was mostly a backup. Even with these 2 losses, Dallas still has Jeff Heath, who could easily step in to fill the task, as the fans have seen in the playing time he has gotten in the past. I see Dallas taking a safety though in the first round to thicken the depth chart position there, and possibly have the first-round rookie claim the starting spot.
If there is one thing that Dallas should celebrate, it should be the losses they had from the cornerback position in free agency. Morris Claiborne decided to part ways and sign with the Jets and Brandon Carr decided to move on to the Ravens. If anything, Dallas improved by getting rid of 2 players that were deadweight. Morris Claiborne was the most wasted pick that Dallas has used in the last 7 years, and they moved up to draft him at 6th in the first round. Claiborne was never able to play a full 16 game season in his 5 years in Dallas, and never played up to expectations until this last season, where he still missed 6 games. Brandon Carr was a player that never lived up to his contract that the Cowboys gave him after his outstanding season he had with the Chiefs in 2011. Carr was getting up there in age, and had some of the worst statistics with balls thrown over the top to receivers. Dallas will still have a top cornerback when healthy in Orlando Scandrick, and went out and signed former Eagle, Nolan Carroll, to help replace the loss of their 2 starters. Dallas also still has Anthony Brown, who progressively improved last season with the more playing time he received from other players being injured.
These losses in free agency will not play a huge tole on the cowboys being contenders next year. Rob Marinelli has been able to get the best out of the players he has to work with, and should see a similar challenge with the players he has to start the upcoming season. Dallas still has one of the scariest offenses in the NFL, and should be able to help carry the load when leading them to victory. Look for Dallas to really only go after defensive players in the draft a month for now. This is not to help fill talent lost, but to enhance the depth on that side of the field.