Every team handles free agency differently than other teams, and differently from one year to the next. The Dallas Cowboys are no different; since free agency started in 1989, there have been five offseasons in which they didn't sign a single free agent from another team. By contrast, in 1990, Dallas signed 16 players from other NFL teams.
To find out how the Cowboys made best use of their financial assets in free agency, the calendar needs to be flipped back just one year. Dallas signed three players a year ago — linebacker Keith Brooking, defensive end Igor Olshansky and safety Gerald Sensabaugh — and hit on each one.
The direction the Cowboys will choose this offseason remains to be seen. If, as many expect, the 2010 season is played without a salary cap, there will be no limit to what Dallas owner Jerry Jones can spend, and he has shown in the past he is not afraid to go after big names; see Leonard Davis in 2007, Mike Vanderjagt in 2006, La'Roi Glover in 2002, Raghib Ismael in 1999, and before that, the biggest name in the team's free agent history, Deion Sanders in 1995.
Jones has, at times, treated free agency like a fantasy football team, seemingly more interested in adding the biggest names to his roster, instead of the players who best fit the team's needs. This is the biggest concern entering free agency this year. With next year's Super Bowl scheduled to be played in Cowboys Stadium, might Jones go for broke (especially with an uncapped season) and roll out huge money for every big-name free agent on the market?
Some of the names available at positions where Dallas could use an upgrade, or at least better depth: kicker Neil Rackers, wide receiver Terrell Owens (surely not), defensive end Julius Peppers (if he doesn't receive the franchise tag from the Carolina Panthers), defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, linebacker Aaron Kampman, linebacker Gary Brackett, wide receiver Lance Moore, offensive tackle Jammal Brown, safety Darren Sharper, receiver Braylon Edwards, kicker Sebastian Janikowski, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, safety Ryan Clark, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, tackle Marcus McNeill, linebacker Shawn Merriman …
See where this is going?
Of course Jones won't sign all of those players. He might not sign any, as resigning them will be a top priority for many of their current teams, and some, like Owens, simply would not fit. But Jones loves star players. He has the sport's biggest event coming to Arlington next year, and the more star players he has, the more people are talking about his team. In an ideal world, he not only wants to play in next year's Super Bowl, he also wants the entire football world focused on his team all season long.
of free agents as the team ever has signed. Olshansky was exactly the kind of powerful, run-stopping defensive end the team needed next to Jay Ratliff and in front of DeMarcus Ware. Sensabaugh joined Ken Hamlin to give the Cowboys the most solid pair of safeties the team has had in years. And Brooking blended immediately with the rest of the starting linebackers and became one of the team's emotional leaders.
Jones has money — lots of money, even by NFL owner standards — and he's not afraid to use it. But no matter how strong the lure of flashy marquee names might be, he needs to resist the urge of going after the biggest names in free agency and focus instead on finding free agents who fit his team's needs.
'Boys should be bargain shoppers
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