Most observers feel like the 2023 offseason has been a much different exercise than normal for the Dallas Cowboys. Instead of only looking to re-sign their own players and turn their attention to the draft, they engaged in the trade market to acquire necessary help at their most needy positions. One outlet, however, didn’t see it that way.
Pro Football Focus gave the Cowboys a B- for their offseason work. Considering how unique this offseason has felt, that grade won’t sit right with many fans.
Acquiring veteran talent through trades for draft picks has not been a well-traveled path for Dallas. While they may not have spent big in free agency, there was a lackluster group of targets available, making it an acceptable stance this particular offseason.
Their overall work hardly feels like it deserves a barely above average grade.
Why the Cowboys only got a B-
Michigan football defeats Michigan State, 29-7, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI on October 29, 2022.
Offseason Grade: B-
The biggest moves the Cowboys have made were trades for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Both players showed in 2022 that they are still capable of high-level play, and each will have less responsibility to be the best player on their respective units given Dallas’ talented roster.
The Cowboys’ draft was solid, if unspectacular. Mazi Smith should provide some much-needed strength on the interior of their defensive line — a weakness for years now. He finished 2022 with 27 run stops, the sixth most in the draft class at his position. Second-round pick Luke Schoonmaker should also contribute plenty at tight end early in his career.
The questions about the draft are warranted, the site isn’t alone in wondering if the Cowboys added a strong class. There are plenty of opinions on what the team did in late April, but there’s no denying the team added quality players from good athletic backgrounds.
Making a judgement on the draft now in grading this offseason is an odd stance seeing as how it’s difficult to tell whether Dallas’ picks will pan out before they have played a snap. However, the Smith and Schoonmaker selections addressed positions of need, are upgrades, and can make a difference in this season.
What PFF missed
(AP Photo/Matt Patterson)
If the site wasn’t impressed with this offseason for the Cowboys, they probably haven’t thought much of the team’s last 10 or so off-season’s in Dallas. The Cowboys have been more aggressive during this free agent period than they normally have been.
Usually, Dallas lays dormant during the early stages of free agency, then adds marginal players to fill their obvious holes on the roster, and is passive in acquiring talent. Then the draft arrives where the Cowboys do their best work at finding legitimate help.
That wasn’t the case this year, the organization didn’t add much in free agency, but they did trade for Cooks and Gilmore, significantly addressing two of their needs this offseason.
The site also failed to recognize the Cowboys were also able to re-sign their key free agents. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, safety Donovan Wilson, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and right tackle Terence Steele were all retained. Dallas did sign a versatile veteran offensive lineman, Chuma Edoga, and running back Ronald Jones as their top free agent pickups. Both additions filled needs for depth on the roster.
Not overspending on a mediocre group in free agency should be seen as a positive.
Where there's still work to do
(AP Photo/LM Otero)
The Cowboys are not a finished product right now, and they are a team that frequently adds veteran players late in the offseason. Look no further than signing safety Malik Hooker in July of 2021 for proof that Dallas can find good players late in the process.
There are still some options that can come in and help Dallas win games. Adding another WR or LB would be wise before the season starts, and the team will be getting some money back on their books when former running back Ezekiel Elliott’s June 1 cap savings comes in to help fund any quality signings.
Aside from bringing in more talent, the Cowboys can have an even more successful offseason by extending an impending free agent or two.
The biggest name that needs a new deal is quarterback Dak Prescott. The Cowboys would be wise to redo Prescott’s contract and reduce his salary cap hit. Management surely knows now that waiting only costs them more in the end, so extending Prescott before the regular season starts makes the most financial sense.
Dallas could also extend CB Trevon Diggs before offseason is out, sparing themselves the aggravation, and money, next offseason.
The Cowboys’ offseason has been better than PFF gives them credit for, and the team could earn a higher-grade before it’s all said and done.