The Cowboys were aggressive in filling positions of need via free agency in 2022, and that formula led them to take a step in the playoffs, so they might turn that up a bit
FRISCO, TX — As the entire NFL world waits to see who'll take the victory in Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys will continue to sift through the remnants of the 2022 season to determine why they fell one game short of the NFC Championship.
One of those items will be their approach to free agency, something they've admittedly gotten better at over the past two seasons, particularly when analyzing their hit rate on notable players — e.g., Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, Jason Peters, Anthony Barr, Dante Fowler and T.Y. Hilton.
That being said, they've perennially stayed away from the first wave of NFL free agency, content to stick to the secondary [and mostly] tertiary waves.
Will that change in 2023 though, especially having seen the all-in FA philosophy pay off recently the Rams and Eagles (who, at minimum, are in their second Super Bowl in five years)?
"At the end of the day, can you do it like the Rams? Can you do it like Philly and load up for a year and hope it all falls into place? You could," said Executive Vice President and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones, speaking from the Reese's Senior Bowl.
It's all an equation for the Cowboys to solve annually, particularly knowing that, because they draft so well, that they'll often face the issue of trying to balance keeping their own elite homegrown talent with possibly [over]paying for a whale in the first wave of free agency.
"We've got to measure that," said Jones. "Is there the right guy who makes you maybe lose one of those young guys you want to keep but you lose him? You could. We've got to measure that, but I would not rule out us making an aggressive move in free agency.
"In general, I think we've done well in the draft, I think we've done well with our homegrown. I think most people know we've got 4-5 guys at the end of the day who we need to sign and are going to cost a lot of money. I don't think we want them walking out the door. If you want to do all that, it's hard to do both, if you will."
The NFL salary cap for the 2023 season has been set at $224.8 million and, currently sitting at roughly $7 million over the cap, the Cowboys have several triggers they can pull to free up tens of millions of dollars in the blink of an eye.
In other words, the cash will be readily available for whatever they choose to do.
In December, one of the most well-publicized pursuits was that Odell Beckham, Jr., as one example, and the Cowboys made a passionate push to acquire the three-time Pro Bowl receiver — including two visits with him — but the deal never materialized; and Beckham went on to sign with no one at all and Hilton subsequently made his way to Dallas.
So, as expected, you'll see the Cowboys circle back on Beckham, while also not ruling Hilton out as a possible readdition after having seen him make an instant impact with/for Dak Prescott.
"Oh absolutely," Jones said of talks with Beckham. "That's the way we left it with him. Get ready to play, and then let's revisit. We obviously had an interest for a reason."
Ultimately, the Cowboys have won 24 combined regular season games over the past two seasons and advanced to the NFC Divisional Round despite a mountain of adversity that could've sent them spiraling, but tweaks are needed to get them to the next step (ideally, the next two steps).
That might include calibrating their approach to free agency a bit more than usual.
"It's always on the table," said Jones. "We will never rule out an aggressive move in free agency — wouldn't rule out a trade."
A trade, huh?
*insert thinking face emoji here*
The new league year begins on March 15 and legal tampering gets underway on March 13, so we will all know soon enough just how aggressive the Cowboys can/will be, while also keeping in mind the priority of re-signing as many of their extensive list of high-caliber in-house players as possible.
After all, those count as free agency moves as well.