Stephen Jones is not only the son of Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones but he’s the man that essentially controls the finances when it comes to the organization. With free agency approaching, the Cowboys have a plethora of in-house free agents to make decisions on.
Leading the way are defensive end Randy Gregory, safety Jayron Kearse, and tight end Dalton Schultz. However, as is the case every season, big-name free agents from other teams are linked to the Cowboys, and their fan base that’s waited 27 years for a Super Bowl cling to them all like a toddler to their mother’s hip when they’re out in public.
Cowboys’ executive vice president Stephen Jones spoke at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Monday. Predictably, he revealed that the plan for Dallas in free agency will be conservative as always.
“In general, from a money standpoint, if I’m looking into a crystal ball right now, I see most of our money that would go in free agency going toward our current players,” said Jones. “Doesn’t mean that won’t change. We might come across a value on a player that we say, ‘Hey, it’s just one we got to take.’ I don’t want to rule it out.
“But, in general, we go to our players and then we have to be efficient in the draft in terms of improving the team.”
Another NFC team, the Los Angeles Rams, took a different method of building their roster in 2021. At the beginning of November, they traded for edge rusher Von Miller, sending a second and third-round pick in the 2022 NFL draft to the Denver Broncos. Two weeks later, they acquired wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr after he was released by the Cleveland Browns.
The “All-in” philosophy of the Rams paid off with the ultimate prize. They defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. What made it sweeter is that their two big moves to bring talent to the organization contributed big-time in the win. Miller amassed two sacks and before suffering a torn ACL in the first half, Beckham Jr. gained 52 yards on two receptions, including the game’s first touchdown.
Even after seeing a conference foe win it all by being aggressive, Jones isn’t inclined to do the same.
“You know, there’s a lot of different ways to do things,” Jones said. “Certainly hats off to them. They had a hell of a year and won the Super Bowl, and certainly they went about it in a way that’s pushing a lot of chips out there. So, you know, there’s some forms of all of this that we’ll probably decide where we want to be. I feel like we got a lot of good young players on this football team and you don’t want to just be starting over, if you will, if we did too much.
“You know, we could do some things that could allow us to keep most of our guys if we wanted to push it all out, but we’ll have a much bigger problem the next year and the year after that.”
Long story short, the route the Cowboys will take in free agency in 2022 will be the status quo. It’s that type of thinking that lends credence to the idea that Stephen Jones doesn’t want to get rid of what’s become a huge problem in Dallas. Yes, things like financial ramifications and possible loss of draft picks have to be considered when building a roster.
However, at some point, risks have to be taken.
It’s important to try and keep a core group of good players around to be competitive. So, Jones’s mindset as far as that goes is understandable. At the same time, doing the same thing and expecting different results is counterproductive and that doesn’t seem to register with him.
Jones isn’t wrong for wanting to keep the Cowboys’ finances in order, but if he’s not willing to look at things differently in terms of acquiring talent, then he’s holding the organization back. Managing the salary cap has become his safety net for not being aggressive in free agency, but scared money doesn’t make money as people say.
The NFL has created so many ways to manipulate the salary cap so that teams can have money when needed. Also, the salary cap has gone up around $10 to $12 million each year since 2014 except for the 2021 season in which it went down about $16 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, the approach of Jones, while it can be appreciated to a degree, doesn’t mean the Cowboys or any team have to hold on to every dollar for dear life. The risk can be worth the reward, as the Rams proved in February.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat and Stephen Jones needs to realize that soon. If not, the Cowboys may be looking at many more years of talented rosters that fall short of expectations.
Featured image via-Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports