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Cowboys' Needs Taking Shape As Free Agency Market Begins To Settle

FRISCO, Texas –The spending isn't remotely close to stopping, but the dust is starting to clear a little bit.

After a flurry of activity on Tuesday and Wednesday, the NFL's free agent market seems to have stabilized a little bit. With the exception of a few big fish, several of whom have been cut in the last few days, most of the league's marquee free agents have been snatched up.

The result is a less-talented – albeit hopefully less pricy market – as NFL clubs move on toward secondary targets in the free agent pecking order.

Case in point: the Cowboys lost their second free agent of the offseason on Thursday. After the Kansas City Chiefs confirmed their signing of Anthony Hitchens on Wednesday afternoon, another AFC West club descended on Dallas.

The Oakland Raiders signed Keith Smith to a two-year, $4.2 million deal, opening up a hole at the fullback position. Smith had been a restricted free agent, but the Cowboys opted not to extend him a tender, likely due to the inexpensive nature of his position.

It's not exactly a huge surprise. Smith played his college career in the Bay Area, and the move creates a union with former Cowboys special teams coordinator and current Raiders special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

It also creates another hole for the Cowboys to look at in the coming weeks, as Smith was both the team's starting fullback and a mainstay on special teams.

As has been well-documented to this point, the Cowboys have yet to bring any free agents into their team. After a reported attempt to sign Sammy Watkins, it's been incredibly quiet in Dallas – a method the Cowboys have followed fairly strictly in recent years.

Last year, the Cowboys waited until Friday, March 10 – three days into the new league year – to do most of their damage. Heading into the weekend, they signed Nolan Carroll and Stephen Paea, and they brought back Terrance Williams on a four-year deal.

That's not to say this year will bring the same results. Other than the reports about Watkins, the Cowboys haven't been so much as linked to a free agent, let alone signed one.

That's bound to change in time.

Even with most of the headline-grabbing names gone, there's no shortage of talent available in this free agent pool. It's just a matter of when the cost lines up with the Cowboys' needs.

In light of the last few days, the needs are not few.

Hitchens' departure leaves a sizable hole in the linebacker corps, as the Cowboys will undoubtedly want depth to fill in behind Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. As of right now, there is no starting guard. Byron Jones' transition to corner leaves the safety spot thin – a fact that plenty of people have noticed, given the constant talk of current free agent safety Tyrann Mathieu.

One way or another, the Cowboys will also want to take a look in their offensive backfield – strange as that seems to say. Smith is now off to Oakland, and Alfred Morris seems unlikely to re-sign in Dallas, which leaves Ezekiel Elliott and Rod Smith as the only Cowboy running backs under contract.

It's a lengthy to-do list, but it's worth remembering that there's still time to tend to it. It's been a quiet start to free agency, but there's still 45 days to the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Cowboys' work has only just begun.

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