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Offseason | 2024

Cowboys, Jones explain quiet 2024 free agency


FRISCO, Texas — A quiet free agency has led to the Dallas Cowboys defending their declaration made earlier this offseason of being "all in"for 2024 — having since continually attempted to clarify their meaning.

Long story exceedingly short, as the 2024 NFL Draft approaches, the team's front office has positioned their definition of the phrase to aim at the current roster, and not headline acquisitions in free agency, along with the incoming class of rookie talent.

On Tuesday, speaking from the team's annual pre-draft press conference, owner and general manager Jerry Jones pointed at the salary cap as the reason for the Cowboys mostly sitting out free agency this time around.

"I think our structure and our involvement at every level that we are in our process of getting personnel is ideal for making good decisions," said Jones, who also noted he gained a clearer understanding of the salary cap following his viral Senior Bowl proclamation. "I know what it's like to make a mistake because I'm gonna be living with it 10 years from now. I'm not just here for a five-year session as GM, so I know what it's like to have to live with how you're doing that."

Be it slices of pie or collegiate comparisons, Jones says there's only so much to go around.

"With that in mind, I compare this to college and scholarships," he added. "And if you had, in college, a system that allowed you to get better players — let's say you were limited to 30 — but you had the ability to get the player by giving five scholarships to that player, then you'd know that when you gave him the five it was going to limit you [elsewhere]. You just gave away five to get one guy.

"That's the system that has really made the NFL the game that it is today. It has created such an opportunity for parity, and it works. … It is not a lack of money, under the premise. It's not that at all. It's a part of the rules."

As it stands, the Cowboys have just over $6 million in available cap space and a portion of that will be given to the class of rookies selected in Detroit this weekend. There are indeed triggers that can be pulled to free up tens of millions of dollars toward this year's salary cap, e.g., restructures, but Dallas has seemingly put a halt to kicking those same cans down the road as they have in the past.

A mutually-agreed upon reworking of All-Pro quarterback Dak Prescott's deal provided some much-needed cap relief, but the savings remain in the Cowboys' bank account for now.

And Jones intimates that, for example, is by design.

"Sometimes you look at your account and you're loaded with money that day, but you know you've incurred bills that are three times the [amount] of money you have in your account but, that day, it looks like you've got a lot of money," he said. "Well, you've got to be disciplined with spending what you've got in your account if you know you've got all these bills out here."

The sentiment is echoed, and has been, by executive vice president and director of player personnel Stephen Jones, who went on to note the recent failures in the postseason as well.

"The elephant in the room is the playoff success," said Jones. "We went and got [Brandin] Cooks. We went and got [Stephon] Gilmore. We signed some veteran players and we won the offseason but, guess what? We didn't get it done in the playoffs.

"… Until we have success in the playoffs, that's the biggest question everyone's gonna ask: 'How are you gonna get over that hurdle?'"

Despite a hemorrhaging of talent this spring to other clubs and only one notable addition to fill a need, e.g., Eric Kendricks, it's incumbent that young players from recent draft classes combine with those to come out of this year's NFL draft to help carry Dallas to a place they've not been since the mid-1990s.

"We feel like we can do it with this roster," said Stephen Jones.

On to Detroit.

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