many $10 to $20 million signing bonuses to keep their guys, but also currently eating nearly $22 million of dead money against the cap after cutting bait the past two years with either veterans in decline or ones who increasingly became a pain in their backside.
What's the cost for doing such bad business?
Wanting to re-up with maybe the best defensive player in the NFL, DeMarcus Ware, but knowing they have to count every penny this year to accomplish this expensive feat, and those in the future so their bank is not busted.
So you draft Jason Williams, not only to replace a somewhat dire need - Kevin Burnett on the nickel defense - but also to see how he transitions to the weak inside linebacker spot. The Cowboys were forced into free agency this year to replace Zach Thomas at the position with Keith Brooking.
They draft Brewster, not to immediately take over for Flozell Adams at left tackle or even Kyle Kosier at left guard, but to one day possibly give them an alternative to fill those spots once the veterans move on. That way you don't have to pay the money they did for a Leonard Davis in free agency, or even to re-sign Adams, who is inching dangerously close to the end.
You draft a Butler and Brandon Williams out of need, since the only bona fide outside rush guys they have are Ware, Anthony Spencer, who will get his chance to finally start this year, and Greg Ellis, turning 34 and entering the last year of his contract. They not only need depth there, but potential starters down the road. After all, Spencer is an unknown, but after this year he only has two years left on his contract.
You draft a boat load of safeties, Smith, Hamlin and Stephen Hodge, first because you needed depth there, second because you needed special teams dudes, and thirdly because who knows if Gerald Sensabaugh will be the real deal, having only signed a one-year contract. And plus, if the other Hamlin doesn't play better than he did last year you might have to spin the wheel at that spot, too.
You draft McGee because these backup quarterbacks are becoming increasingly expensive, and the Cowboys have to purchase one every time since he becomes only the second quarterback they have drafted in the past 18 years. Instead of paying millions for a Brad Johnson or a Jon Kitna, you try to develop one of your own, which they fortunately did with their current franchise quarterback.
Jerry and Stephen Jones understand how important it's becoming to stay out of free agency, especially when you enter out of desperation, with nowhere else to turn and a guy such as Ken Hamlin has you over a barrel heading into free agency, the Cowboys finally relenting by overpaying with a $9 million signing bonus.
When asked why should fans be excited about this draft, Jerry Jones said, "No. 1, they should look, look at what our plan was, and the real facts are we deliberately accumulated the draft picks and where we went was no accident."
Jones said those fans should ask, "and did they get value and did they address things that really should be addressed?"
He insists the Cowboys did, and at the same time "did not get away from the values on our board."
The teams scouting department was outwardly elated, and believe me, when these guys, whose year-long jobs are working toward this day, aren't, they have a hard time faking it when these two days are done.
"Couldn't have been happier" was what I kept hearing, no company line.
Someone else was trying to fit this draft right on top of the 1995 draft, the one the Cowboys purposely drafted for backups on a team that had won consecutive Super Bowls and went to the NFC title game in the third year, ending up with the likes of Sherman Williams, Kendell Watkins and Shane Hannah in the second round, Charlie Williams in the third and Eric Bjornson in the fourth.
Sure the Cowboys won the Super Bowl that year, but the first three players eventually flamed out, Williams was no more than a special teams guy and only Bjornson turned out to be a player, signing a free-agent deal the Cowboys couldn't match when his contract expired.