IRVING, Texas -- Free agency in the NFL is not only about who a team signs. It’s also about who a team loses.
The Dallas Cowboys lost eight players after the 2014 season to unrestricted free agency: Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Dwayne Harris, Henry Melton, DeMarco Murray, Jermey Parnell, George Selvie and Anthony Spencer. They also chose not to tender an offer to restricted free-agent cornerback Sterling Moore, which allowed him to leave as well.
Those nine players received guaranteed money totaling a little more than $53 million from the Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New Orleans Saints.
Murray received $21 million from the Eagles. Parnell received $14.5 million from the Jaguars.
Of the nine players only Moore, Harris and Parnell exceeded what they had done in 2014 with the Cowboys.
On Monday, the Falcons released Durant, who signed a three-year, $10.8 million deal that guaranteed him $3 million. The price when he was signed seemed high for a player who missed as many games as he played in two years with the Cowboys. He missed three games for Atlanta and was credited with 82 tackles, one forced fumble and three pass deflections.
The Buccaneers signed Carter to be their playmaking linebacker after he recorded five interceptions in 2014. He signed a four-year, $18 million deal that included $4.25 million guaranteed. He lost the job to Kwon Alexander and finished with 47 tackles, two sacks, two pass defensed and did not intercept a pass.
Murray’s fall from being the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014 to just 702 yards in his first season with Philadelphia has been well-chronicled. He never got comfortable with Chip Kelly’s offense and there could be some buyer’s remorse in Philadelphia. Last week Dez Bryant tweeted to Murray to come home. The Cowboys would certainly welcome him but at a lower contractual number.
Parnell cashed in on Jacksonville’s overflowing cap space and some cameo performances to start at right tackle. He was part of a line that helped Blake Bortles throw for 4,428 yards and 35 touchdown passes. The Cowboys gave Cole Beasley the contract Harris received from the Giants with $7.1 million guaranteed. Harris had 36 catches for 396 yards and four touchdowns. He also returned a kickoff (against the Cowboys) and a punt for a touchdown. Moore had just one interception but he did a solid job against Bryant in the Cowboys’ regular-season meeting against the Buccaneers. His one interception was more than Cowboys corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne had.
Hardy, who did not live up to the expectations with six sacks, earned about $8.8 million from the Cowboys for his 12 games but none of it came in guaranteed money. McFadden surprised many with 1,089 yards rushing and his only guarantee was a $200,000 signing bonus. Gachkar played mostly a special-teams role on his $1.2 million guarantee. Brinkley was cut before the season started after he received $2 million guaranteed.
Free agency is not all that it is cracked up to be. It’s not about simply spending money. It’s about spending it wisely.
The good news for the Cowboys and their free-agency approach from 2015 is that it should net them four compensatory picks for the spring draft.