Cowboys show they will go only so far at positions of need

Cowboys conservative in pursuing older free agents (1:59)

ESPN NFL Insider Joe Banner agrees with the Cowboys disciplined approach to free agency this year, but thinks they should make an effort to sign DE Chris Long. (1:59)

IRVING, Texas -- Speaking on a conference call Monday, running back Matt Forte said the Dallas Cowboys were among the suitor's for his services before he joined the New York Jets. Later Monday, free-agent safety Eric Weddle chose to sign the Baltimore Ravens reportedly over the Cowboys as well.

That the Cowboys were interested in Forte and Weddle on at least some level should not be surprising.

Forte has five 1,000-yard seasons in his career, and in a down year still ran for 898 yards in 13 games last year. He is also an excellent receiver out of the backfield. Weddle has been among the NFL's best safeties for the past five years but missed three games last season with a groin injury.

The Cowboys have a need for running back help. The Cowboys have a need for a playmaker in the secondary.

But they were not willing to cross a financial threshold to land a 30-year-old running back and a 31-year-old safety.

The New York Jets landed Forte with a three-year deal worth $12 million that included $9 million guaranteed. The Ravens landed Weddle on a four-year, $29 million deal that included $9 million guaranteed and $13 million in the first two years.

Are the Cowboys right or wrong in not doing more to sign these veteran targets at need positions?

That's what the regular season is for. It is impossible to know at this time. You can debate the wisdom but the Cowboys have followed their plan.

It's clear, though, the Cowboys do not want to pay for age in free agency, and if they do it will be on their terms.

In 2012, the Cowboys signed guard Nate Livings to a five-year, $18.75 million deal as a free agent just a few days after he turned 30. He started every game that year but the Cowboys cut him in 2013 in part because of a bad knee.

The Livings' signing shouldn't be a broad-brush view. In 2009, the Cowboys signed 33-year-old linebacker Keith Brooking and he had a productive three-year run. So the Cowboys will sign a thirtysomething and can have one succeed.

So this brings us to defensive end Chris Long, who is scheduled to visit the Cowboys on Wednesday. He turns 31 on March 28. He has missed 14 games over the last two seasons and has four sacks.

The Cowboys have major needs at defensive end. Greg Hardy, Jack Crawford and Jeremy Mincey are free agents and Crawford has the best chance of the three to return but things have been quiet with him. Randy Gregory will miss the first four games in 2016 because of a suspension. DeMarcus Lawrence, who led the Cowboys in sacks with eight in 2015, is coming back from back surgery.

Over the last two years, the Cowboys have looked for short-term fixes up front while looking for long-term answers in the draft. That's why they signed Mincey in 2014 and Hardy last year while drafting Lawrence and Gregory in the second rounds in each of the last two drafts.

Long would fit into the same category as Mincey, who was 31 when he joined the Cowboys. Long is going through his due diligence, visiting with the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

If he wants to become a Cowboy, it will be at the team's price.

In Forte and Weddle, the Cowboys have shown they will go only so far even at positions of need.