It’s been a relatively quiet 2016 offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, who are coming off their worst year since 1989. As teams like the New York Giants add top free agents, Dallas is looking to compete for the NFC East title after making no major additions.
Dallas waited until the initial wave of free agents signed contracts to make their biggest move. The Cowboys gave former Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris a two-year deal worth $3.5 million, including $1.8 million in guaranteed money. Morris joins a backfield that is led by Darren McFadden, who was fourth in the NFL with 1,089 rushing yards.
Morris made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014, but he rushed for just 751 yards on 3.7 yards per carry in 2015, failing to reach the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his four-year career. He wasn’t close to being one of the best players available, and the Cowboys have focused on getting younger instead of spending a lot of money on big names.
After getting rid of a few of their oldest players, the Cowboys only have four players over 30 years old, including Tony Romo and Jason Witten, on their roster. The team decided not to bring back 29-year-old Nick Hayden and 32-year-old Jeremy Mincey, who had been a part of the team’s defensive line for the past few years. Dallas signed 27-year-old Cedric Thornton and 24-year-old Bronson Mayowa to replace them.
Fullback Tyler Clutts and safety Danny McCray are also gone, but the biggest departure was Dallas’ most controversial player last season. Defensive end Greg Hardy is a free agent after spending one season with the Cowboys. CBS Radio’s 105.3 The Fan reports that the team doesn’t want to bring the defensive end back. Publicly, owner Jerry Jones has said he wants to leave the door open for a possible Hardy return.
Following a four-game suspension to start the season, Hardy was one of the Cowboys’ best defensive players, totaling six sacks in 12 games. But the controversy surrounding his 2014 arrest for domestic assault lingered, and he was a distraction for much of the season.
Linebacker Rolando McClain hit free agency briefly, and the Cowboys brought him back on a one-year deal worth $4 million. He had 80 tackles, two sacks and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown, for Dallas last year.
Despite finishing in last place to end the 2015 season, Dallas can still be much improved in 2016 without making major acquisitions. The Cowboys were expected to compete for a playoff spot until Tony Romo went down with an injury. The quarterback only played two full games because of a broken collarbone, and Dallas might be the favorite to win the NFC East if he can stay on the field next season.
Teams like the Houston Texans, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders saw their Super Bowl odds increase significantly after they were active in free agency. Ten teams have better odds than the Cowboys to win the championship.