The Dallas Cowboys Free Agent Strategy. Looking Back at How the Cowboys Approach Signing “Out-of-House” Free Agents.


Every year “how the Cowboys choose to approach free agency” is the talk of the Cowboysverse. The talk is all about how the Dallas Cowboys’ poor and conservative approach to free agency leads to a cycle of misses and just downright bad signings.

For this article, we are setting aside those “in-house” free agent signings and strictly looking at the moves the team has made on players coming from other organizations.

Just to understand how the Cowboys tend to go about free agency, let’s look back over the past few years at players they have signed and how they turned out.

This article is not a comprehensive list strictly because I would spend way too long trying to write about every single player. So I attempted to choose a few I feel best portray how the Cowboys go about free agency.

2017 Outside Free Agents List:

Stephen Paea, DL

Nolan Carroll, CB

Damontre Moore, CB

Byron Bell, OL

Robert Blanton

Analysis: Wow, I don’t know where to start in response to this free agent signings class. What a rough offseason this was for Dallas. If there are two words to describe how the 2017 offseason went in regards to outside free agents. The words are, not good. The name that sticks out in my mind is Nolan Carroll. The Dallas Cowboys gave Carroll a 3-year, $10 million deal during the 2017 offseason. He played just 6 quarters of football in Dallas while being arrested on suspension of driving while intoxicated. The worst part about all of this is Carroll was a top choice for Dallas and was suppose to be a signing that would replace Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Brutal.

2018 Outside Free Agents List:

Jamize Olawale, FB

Joe Thomas, LB

Deonte Thompson, WR

Allen Hurns, WR

Cameron Fleming, OT

Marcus Martin, OG

Analysis: I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t completely distraught during the 2018 offseason, the Cowboys signed Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson in hopes of replacing WR Dez Bryant. I thought that Hurns was a solid pick-up for the team while Thompson had experience at the NFL level. I didn’t believe either of them was “Prime Dez Bryant” but figured the WR-by-committee strategy wouldn’t hold back the team. But, my mind quickly changed when the Cowboys’ offense sputtered its way to a 3-5 record and ultimately traded for Amari Cooper at the mid-way point. The Cowboys’ “splash” in free agency was an injured Allen Hurns, who felt the effects of those injuries. Once again they went to the bargain bin and failed to bring in a player that had much of an impact. Cameron Fleming was not terrible for the Cowboys and ended up being a solid back up for this team along with Joe Thomas. Who proved to be a solid LB3 behind Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.

2019 Outside Free Agents List:

Randall Cobb, WR

Christian Covington, DT

Kerry Hyder, DL

George Iloka, S

Analysis: There is one name that saves this list. Randall Cobb. I’m not completely unfair when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys and their offseason decisions. The Randall Cobb signing proved to be a really good one for the Cowboys. In his time with Dallas, Cobb had 55 catches, 828 yards, and 3 touchdowns while averaging over 15 yards per reception. I liked this deal when it happened and I still do today. The Cowboys signed Cobb to a 1-year deal, including a $2 million signing bonus and a max value pact worth $5.5 million. Honestly, you can’t ask for much better production from a player that was such a low-risk signing at the time. I commend them for that.

2020 Outside Free Agents List:

Ha-ha Clinton Dix, S

Gerald McCoy, DT

Dontari Poe, DT

Maurice Canady, CB

Blake Bell, TE

Greg Zuerlein, K

Analysis: I have a lot to say about this class, maybe because it is one of the freshest outside free agents on my mind. Just because my brain needs to, let me run down the list and what transpired during, before, and after the 2020 season. Ha-Ha Clinton Dix never played a snap for the Cowboys in the regular season and was cut by the team. Gerald McCoy was injured in practice and never saw a snap in Dallas. Dontari Poe was a complete disappointment and couldn’t stay in shape, the Cowboys released him. Maurice Canady was a non-factor for the team. Blake Bell had very few moments and Greg Zuerlein was 82.9% on his kicks for the Cowboys in 2020. Zuerlein was released by the team a week ago (2022).

So, what do we make of this outside free-agent class? What we all thought of the 2020 season as a whole. Blah.

2021 Outside Free Agents List:

Keanu Neal S/LB

Malik Hooker S

Damontae Kazee S

Jayron Kearse S

Bryan Anger P

Jeremy Sprinkle TE

Analysis: As many of you probably already know, this list is phenomenal in my opinion. Malik Hooker, Jayron Kearse, and Bryan Anger are my favorite names on this entire page of writing. All credit to the Cowboys for going “bargain bin shopping” and pulling out some solid players. Jayron Kearse was a revelation for this defense last year, stepping up to be a leader and playing a majority of the defensive snaps. Malik Hooker was a late addition but one that was a positive signing for the Cowboys, they gambled on his health and it paid off, he wasn’t an All-Pro at the position but he was steady. Now, there is an All-Pro on this list. Bryant Anger the punter. He signed a 1 year deal with Dallas and set himself up very nicely for a payday this offseason.


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