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Ranking the Dallas Cowboys Top Off-Season Moves

After the Cowboys’ divisional round playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, the team’s needs heading into 2017 were clear. In order to take the next step, the team must improve on the defensive side of the ball.


With Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church, and J.J. Wilcox headed for free agency, the secondary looked to really need reinforcements. Furthermore, watching Aaron Rodgers shred the defense to the tune of 355 yards passing also identified the need for a pass rusher to disrupt the quarterback. With these needs in mind, let’s examine how the team decided to address them.



Letting Defensive Free Agents Walk


One of the Cowboys’ best moves of the offseason was a move that they did not make. While the team needed to improve on defense, many were concerned the team needed to retain as many of their pending free agents as possible.


Instead, the Cowboys stood firm as Church signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Carr signed with the Baltimore Ravens, Claiborne with the New York Jets, and Wilcox with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition, the team let rotational lineman Jack Crawford sign with the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.


So, how are these losses on defense a positive?


Well, the first benefit is the cap savings the team reaps by not paying these guys. Church signed a four-year, $26 million deal. According to Spotrac, Church will have the second-highest cap charge of any strong safety in the NFL in 2017, at $7.9 million. With needs all over the defense, the team couldn’t afford to spend that much money on a player who, despite his play, could never get the defense over the top. At the end of the day, the team made the same decision with the other defensive free agents. This only highlights the organization’s continued philosophy of building from within, and letting overpriced veterans walk out the door.



Defensive-Minded Draft


With the veteran losses on defense, fans and media were dialed in to what the Cowboys would do to replenish the defensive cupboard. With the 28th overall pick in the NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys made their first pick a player at a position of need. Defensive end Taco Charlton was a textbook selection for Rod Marinelli’s defense. Big, strong, and fast, Charlton brings a versatile pass rusher that can also help in the run game.


Dallas made additional selections that will help the defense. At pick 60, they selected defensive back Chidobe Awuzie. Awuzie has good size, and will be used in a Swiss-Army like role as a rookie. He has the skills to play cornerback or safety, which the Cowboys will value. The team didn’t stop there, selecting Michigan cornerback Jourdan Lewis in the third round. Lewis is a speedy cornerback known for his athletic ball skills and physical coverage. Due to his size, Lewis may best be served in the slot, as he has the skills to lock down receivers, and even bring pressure in nickel blitz situations.


The Cowboys also found a potential replacement for Church, and a draft value, in the sixth round of the draft. Louisiana Tech safety Xavier Woods was selected with the 211th pick in the draft. Woods showed up on film as a physical safety with the athleticism to excel in coverage. He has the potential to develop into a starter, but will not be rushed, with Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier also in the mix. Dallas also spent late-round draft choices on defenders Marquez White, Joey Ivie, and Jordan Carrell. The focus on adding defensive players looks to be a solid move by the organization.



Honorable Mention


The Cowboys had an exceptional offensive performance in 2016. Loaded with playmakers, the team added yet another in wide receiver Ryan Switzer. Switzer was selected in the fourth round of the draft, and will look to make an immediate impact on special teams, while developing into a possible starter down the line.


In conclusion, while the Cowboys made solid additions through free agency, their best move was not overspending. By not spending in free agency, Dallas focused on building through the draft to improve the defense. As a result, the defense looks to be younger, faster, and more athletic than last year. Now, the real question is: Will they be better than last year?

Staff writer covering the Dallas Cowboys | Broadcast journalism major who is crazy about sports. Dallas native who loves to talk sports and follow the action with fellow fans. Follow me on Twitter @wingate_jared

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