Stephen Jones explains why ‘all in’ Cowboys spent NFL’s least amount in free agency

The phrase “all in” has become the new “what do voluntary mean” in Dallas Cowboys lore.

Both phrases are certainly a matter of interpretation, depending on whom you talk to.

Former Cowboys linebacker Darren Hambrick uttered the latter to explain his absence from “a voluntary” offseason workouts during a contract dispute in 2001, knowing the team expected him to attend.

And when owner Jerry Jones said in February the Cowboys were going to be “all in” on improving the team this off season to hopefully get to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1996, there was a natural expectation that players would be added to the roster.

The Cowboys have added just one outside free agent, linebacker Eric Kendricks, while losing at least five starters in free agency and a number of depth pieces.

And now roughly a week away from the 2024 NFL draft, the team is not as talented on paper as the one that ended a third straight 12-5 season with a blowout loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC wildcard playoffs.

Cowboys fans are as disillusioned as ever regarding a team that is now heading into its 29th year since its last Super Bowl title with only five playoffs win in the interim and no trips to the NFC title title game.

Vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 the Fan on Tuesday that he has no regrets about owner Jerry Jones using the term “all in.”

“Everybody has their own definition of what that means, but I’ve never not known us to be all in, nor have I known anyone we compete against not to be all in,” Stephen Jones said.

He added, “We just got to continue to figure out what’s in the best interest of this football team in terms of making it better and giving it the best chance to have success in the playoffs. We understand completely until we go have success in the playoffs. There’s got to be frustration. For three seasons, we’ve won 12 games, which is I think as much as anybody over a three year stretch, but we hadn’t had success in the playoffs. And until that happens, we understand that we’re going to be held accountable and people are going to look and have criticism.”

Much of the criticism right now centers on the lack of spending in free agency by a franchise that is the richest in all of sports, per Forbes Magazine.

According to, the Cowboys have spent just $12.4 million since beginning of the new league year, a far cry from the second-least spending team in the Los Angeles Chargers at $44.5. The NFC East rival Philadelphia Eagles are No. 1 at $395.4 million.

Stephen Jones said the Cowboys spend to the cap every year. More importantly, he said, the reason the team has not spent as much this offseason is because they are holding money back to sign quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver CeeDee Lamb and edge rusher Micah Parsons to contract extensions.

“We spend max, max money year in and year out,” Stephen Jones said. “All 32 can only spend the same amount of money over a five-year stretch. When we’re all said and done, we max out our salary cap every year. We will have done that. What comes with having a good roster, which we do, we’re also looking towards signing our own guys.

“It doesn’t mean it happens overnight. But when you’re wanting to sign players like Dak (Prescott) and Micah (Parsons) and CeeDee (Lamb), then you have to hold money back if you want to have a realistic chance of signing those guys.”

The problem is the Cowboys have not made any progress on signing Prescott, Parsons and Lamb to extensions.

And it has Lamb resorting to the old Hambrick method of negotiations by boycotting the team’s offseason program.

What does voluntary mean?

About the same as “all in” for the Cowboys so far in 2024.

Absolutely nothing.