With offseason workouts and minicamps in the rearview mirror and training camps just a few weeks away, we assess the Dallas Cowboys' offseason moves and assign a letter grade in the video above.
Best move: Defensive end Greg Hardy was the highest-profile signing in free agency and fills a big need, but he will not play a full season because of a suspension. The Cowboys added three first-round talents even though they had just one first-round pick in the draft with Byron Jones, Randy Gregory and La'el Collins. They will fill some holes, but that’s not the best move. The best move the Cowboys made came immediately after the season ended. They kept their coaches: Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli. Garrett signed a five-year, $30 million deal. Linehan and Marinelli have deals that make them among the highest-paid coordinators in the NFL. By keeping the coaches, the Cowboys kept the message for a team that believes it is close to a Super Bowl, and that was a must.
Riskiest move: It’s not that the Cowboys allowed last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, DeMarco Murray, to leave for the Philadelphia Eagles via free agency. It’s how they are choosing to replace Murray’s 1,845 yards. The biggest free-agent play they made was for Darren McFadden, who had a disappointing seven-year run with the Oakland Raiders, and they did not select a runner in a draft that was heavy on running backs. The Cowboys will go with a combination of McFadden, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and/or Ryan Williams to replace Murray. They had fewer rushing yards as a group last year than what Murray had in seven games. The Cowboys believe in their line and believe -- to a degree -- in their runners, but they will look at running backs in the preseason if they don’t like what they’re seeing in training camp.
Whither Dez Bryant: The Cowboys’ best playmaker has not signed his franchise-tag tender and did not participate in the minicamp, though he did make a surprise showing on the final day even if he didn’t practice. But now the Cowboys aren’t sure whether Bryant will show up to training camp on time if they do not come to an agreement on a long-term deal. Bryant is scheduled to make $12.823 million this year, which is more than he made in his first five years in the league, but he wants a long-term deal that gives him more guaranteed money. It’s hard to say he hasn’t earned it with his production: 361 catches, 5,424 yards, 56 touchdowns. The Cowboys want to keep him, but want certain conditions in the deal for protection. The likelihood of a deal seems a little far-fetched right now. Without Bryant, the Cowboys offense is not the same. He changes the dynamic for everything. Defenses have to pay extra attention to him. Without Bryant, running the ball will be more difficult. Without Bryant, Tony Romo's job becomes more difficult.
Training camp outlook: A year ago, some people wondered whether the Cowboys would win five games in 2014, and they clearly surpassed that low bar with a 12-4 record and NFC East title. This year, the Cowboys enter the season with much higher expectations. There is a whiff of confidence surrounding this team, but not the whiff of arrogance that surrounded it in 2008 following a 13-3 season. That 2008 team believed it could show up and win, suffered from internal strife and missed the playoffs. These Cowboys have a number of questions they still need to answer (running back, defense), but they know they are not a finished product.