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Cowboys tying up loose ends in free agency ahead of NFL Draft

A week into free agency has seen the Dallas Cowboys continue to take care of business with the NFL Draft looming on the horizon.

DALLAS — The second week of free agency is under way, and this is the time where the Dallas Cowboys thrive. Normally the team is busy re-signing their own players, while rarely finding outside players to add into the mix.

This has been anything but a typical offseason for the Cowboys. After pulling off two big trades to acquire quality veterans at CB and WR, the organization got busy keeping their own free agents, as usual, but also went about adding depth. The first full week of free agency brought a flurry of small, but quintessential moves to keep the busy offseason going.

To begin with, the Cowboys went about their routine by re-signing running back Rico Dowdle. The three-year RB has been with the team since he signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020, but his 2022 campaign ended with an ankle injury in October. Dowdle spent most of last season in a battle for the No. 3 RB spot with Malik Davis but has just seven carries in his career.

The team eventually went looking for outside help and boosted their offensive line by signing veteran lineman Chuma Edoga. As a third-round pick out of USC in 2019, Edoga has started 13 games with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets since entering the NFL. Interestingly, Edoga was one of the names the Cowboys were interested in trading for last season, a deal that never came to fruition. 

The team signed Edoga to a one-year deal and he provides versatility to an offensive line that recently lost Connor McGovern to free agency. Edoga has played both guard and tackle, something the Cowboys value.

After announcing that they were parting ways with mainstay Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys also bolstered their ground game by signing running back Ronald Jones to a one-year deal. Jones is a two-time Super Bowl champion who is coming off a season where he played in just six games, rushing for only 70 yards.

However, Jones will be just 26-years old at the start of the season and ran for 978 yards and seven scores just three years ago for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their title run. Jones has averaged 4.4 yards per carry over his career and has the pedigree to have an impact if called upon as a second-round RB who rushed for 1,550 yards in his final year with USC in college.

Edoga and Jones marked the first two players that the Cowboys signed from outside of the organization so far during this free agency period.

Dallas got back to keeping their own players when they re-signed pass rusher Dante Fowler. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn brought over one of his pupils from the Atlanta Falcons last season and the veteran edge rusher had a nice first year with the Cowboys. Playing in a reserve role in 2022, Fowler had six sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

Keeping Fowler ensures that the defense will keep its top five pass rushers from last year’s team and Fowler is best suited as backup who can be a force off the edge when called upon. There aren’t many DEs who can play a limited role and still have over a handful of sacks, Fowler is one of those guys.

The burst of signings left the Cowboys in good position throughout the roster. The team is running down their annual checklist of needs and has solid depth on both sides of the ball.

Dallas also made a few smaller moves, but one included a vital part of their special teams. First, the defense got even deeper with the re-signing of veteran defensive end Takk McKinley. Quinn drafted McKinley for the Falcons in 2017 and the Cowboys signed him to the practice squad last season, but the pass rusher never saw any game action. 

One of the more important recent signings, though, is long snapper Trent Sieg. The Cowboys lost last year’s option, Jake McQuaide, to the Detroit Lions and needed a reliable snapper. Sieg comes over from the Las Vegas Raiders and will be 28-years old when the 2023 campaign begins. The team got considerably younger at the position; the last two long snappers for the Cowboys were 40 and 35-years old respectively.

While the Cowboys were adding players, they also lost one of their key pieces on offense from the last few seasons. Free agent tight end Dalton Schultz signed a one-year, $9 million deal with the Houston Texans. Schultz has been a valued receiver and a security blanket for Dak Prescott over the last two years, so he’ll be missed in Dallas.

However, the Cowboys had young depth at the tight end position which made Schultz expendable at that price. Jake Ferguson, Peyton Hendershot, and Sean McKeon are each under 25 years old and offer Dallas an intriguing mix of options to replace Schultz’s production.

Schultz was the second offensive starter that the team has lost in free agency, joining guard McGovern, who signed with the Buffalo Bills. Both Schultz and McGovern should bring the Cowboys a compensatory pick in the 2024 draft.

As the Cowboys continue taking care of business, they are hitting their sweet spot in free agency and bolstering an already solid roster.

Do you think the Cowboys have done enough to enhance their roster in free agency? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi

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