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Mailbag: Can Cowboys keep core players intact?


I'm old enough to remember when the Don Meredith, Bob Hayes, Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, et al Cowboys earned the nickname "Next Year's Champions" for their string of playoff losses. Tex Schramm and Tom Landry were able to keep the core of that team intact until they were able to reverse those fortunes. This Cowboy team has the same championship-caliber core, but is it possible in today's free agent/salary cap era to retain that core intact long enough to reverse this trend? What should we expect to see? – Russell White/Orange City, FL

Nick Eatman: Obviously, it's not possible to do it the same as those days because like you said, there is a salary cap and the better your team is, the more attractive they are in free agency with other clubs. But in terms of superstars, yeah I think the Cowboys can keep Dak, CeeDee, Micah, Diggs and most of the O-line. They've got other guys locked up at the safety position as well. But the key is going to be to continue to draft at a high level. I say that, knowing that the 2023 class really didn't produce much at all. But this team has to get more of the DaRon Bland types of players - stealing Pro Bowl talent in the fifth round, or a Brandon Aubrey from the USFL. You have to find a way to get cheaper superstars to go along with the guys you have to pay.

Patrik: This is my [added] problem with the loss. It's not simply that they lost and/or the fashion in which it happened and/or where it happened and/or to whom it happened against, but you simply will not continue to get opportunities to make a run toward the Super Bowl before regression to the mean occurs; and it occurs much more often and swiftly in today's NFL due to how free agency and the salary cap works. The team we saw earn a division title and a No. 2 seed in this year's playoff will not be the same roster (or possibly coaching staff, to some degree) when training camp gets underway in July. They have 15 pending free agents, coaches being interviewed, contract talks coming due on cornerstone players, etc., and it's a war of attrition in this league. So even if the Cowboys part ways with no one in their coaching staff (TBD), you can expect one-third or more of the 53-man roster to turn over in some capacity — increasing the degree of difficulty for coaches. This is why it's Super Bowl or bust, because the bust carries far-reaching consequences and ramifications.

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