FRISCO, Texas –For 12 teams, the new season has arrived with the hope of advancing to the ultimate goal.
For 20 others, the new year signals the start of an offseason. The Cowboys, of course, find themselves in the latter group after a 9-7 finish put them just on the outside of the NFC playoff picture.
That meant the team was back at The Star on Monday, but not to prepare for the next opponent, instead to take exit physicals, meet with the coaches and other staff members and even talk to the media for the final time this year.
Wide receiver Terrance Williams was quite reflective, saying the team as a whole didn't complete the journey, despite being close to the goal.
"This game is just a play away. You remember the plays that you didn't make more than the ones that you did," Williams said. "When you don't go to the playoffs from a 9-7 record, you really remember the plays that you didn't make. We just didn't get the job done, and that's something that we've got to live with."
Williams added that the near-miss should be rather motivating for the Cowboys moving forward in 2018.
"When you don't go to the playoffs, you remember all the bad stuff," he said. "It's like a bad nightmare, and it's one of those things that's going to keep driving you and driving you. The days that you get tired, you think about days like this."
Williams, who signed a four-year deal with the Cowboys last year in free agency, is expected to return next year. But that's certainly not the case for everyone, especially some of the pending free agents. Linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who was one of the team's best defensive players this year, is an unrestricted free agent and knows the "business-side" of things could be the reason he isn't with the team next year.
"Yes, definitely, it is a business. I knew that getting into it," Hitchens said. "You never know it is a business until it hits you on the business side. It is something that is out of my control and out of Dallas' control. Hopefully I'm back here. This is home for me, and we go from there."
Hitchens is one 13 unrestricted free agents, but just one of three regular starters, along with Jonathan Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence, who led the team with 14.5 sacks and could be headed towards the franchise tag if a deal is not reached in the next two months.
Defensive tackle David Irving, who missed the last four games with a concussion, said he still experienced minor headaches but is improving. He is a restricted free agent, making it rather unlikely he doesn't return in 2018.
Here's a list of the entire 16 free agents for the Cowboys this offseason:
QB Kellen Moore
RB Alfred Morris
WR Brice Butler
OT Byron Bell
G Jonathan Cooper
G/C Joe Looney
DE DeMarcus Lawrence
DL Stephen Paea
LB Anthony Hitchens
LB Kyle Wilber
CB Bene Benwikere
LS L.P. Ladouceur
FB Keith Smith
DL David Irving
DL Brian Price