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Cowboys to Avoid Free Agency Frenzy, Wait for Bargains

Free agency officially begins Wednesday at 3 p.m. Expect your Dallas Cowboys to do nothing.


Philadelphia, the defending champs, will get better when they sign massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata to team with defensive end Michael Bennett, whom they acquired in a trade last week.

The Minnesota Vikings, who advanced to the NFC Championship game, will get better when they sign quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year deal worth $84 million. Washington is trying to get better by signing receiver Paul Richardson to a five-year, $40 million deal.

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Even the Chicago Bears will be better after signing receivers Allen Robinson (three years, $42 million) and Taylor Gabriel (four years, money unknown) for second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Your Cowboys watch and wait. Again.

It’s what they do these days. Once upon a time, the Cowboys were the league’s most aggressive team, lavishing dollars on free agents and plugging holes with players they expected to be stars. 

No more.

They haven’t really done it in a decade, when they signed guard Leonard Davis, the former Arizona star. They spent $50 million on cornerback Brandon Carr in 2012, and he wasn’t the shutdown cornerback they expected.

Now, they’re scared to sign big-dollar free agents, content to bottom feed and acquire low-risk players with little upside who, if we’re honest, aren’t going to bring them any closer to a championship.

You can’t win a title strictly by adding players through the draft in today’s NFL. Signing the occasional big-time free agent or trading for a key player is a necessity. New England won the Super Bowl in 2016, and signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a $65-million deal.

Ask the Cowboys why they observe the start of free agency instead of participating and you get pretty much the same spiel from Vice President Stephen Jones every year.

They don’t like shopping on the first day of free agency, when the prices are at an apex as teams haggle over the top free agents. That frenzy is the reason Kansas City agreed to a three-year deal worth $48 million, $30 million guaranteed, with Sammy Watkins, who has 192 receptions in four seasons.

The Cowboys believe spending money on their own free agents such as Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Dez Bryant over the years is more prudent long-term strategy.

Blame Carr, who intercepted seven passes in five seasons with the Cowboys. He intercepted one pass in his last three seasons with Dallas.

“It’s not like we got stung and had a bad taste,” Jones said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine, “so we’d do it again, but it’s got to be the right guy, the right player.”

Alrighty then.

The Cowboys didn’t want to lose linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who had 84 tackles in 12 games last season, but it made no sense to make the four-year veteran the NFL’s fourth-highest paid inside linebacker at $9 million a year, when they still have to sign guard Zack Martin to a long-term deal.

“Obviously, we’d like to have unlimited funds to improve our football team,” Jones said. “We’d like to hope and think that we’ve drafted well and we’re spending money in the right places.

“When you draft well, you want to pay the guys that you drafted well and keep them with a star on their helmet.”

The deals Robinson and Watkins, the two best free agents on the market, agreed to won’t have any impact on Bryant. He’s still going to take a pay cut whether he’s playing for Dallas or another team because his performance hasn’t been commensurate with his salary for the past three seasons.

He’s averaged 50 catches for 689 yards and six touchdowns a season, while being the league’s seventh-highest-paid receiver.

The one deal that will cause the Cowboys to react is guard Andrew Norwell, who signed a five-year, $66 million deal with Jacksonville. He received $30 million in guarantees on the contract that averages $13.3 million.

Now, we know the basement for Martin’s contract talks. Maybe, this will expedite talks which have been dragging for months, in part, because there hasn’t been much urgency on either side.

That said, Martin already plays for the Cowboys - and that’s the only kind of player they spend real money on these days.

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