Second wave of free agency starts today, Cowboys ready to go bargain hunting

Near the end of Saturday’s news conference, Stephen Jones insinuated that the Cowboys were in active discussions with veteran free agents.

“Actually, we were on the phone with a couple guys here (recently), trying to get our numbers right, looking at guys who can come in here and help us that might be veteran-type players versus the college players. This is a busy time for us right now. I just see our roster continuing to evolve and will continue to get better.”

The hope of course is that they are indeed talking to “veterans” (plural) and not just Ezekiel Elliott, but starting these conversations now would line up well with how the Cowboys have largely done business in years past. Because starting on the Monday after the draft, the Cowboys and all other teams can start signing unrestricted free agents – without compromising possible compensatory picks in 2025.

For years, June 1 was an important date for NFL teams, because after June 1 unrestricted free agents signed by other teams didn’t count against a team’s compensatory draft-pick formula. Since 2015, that date has progressively been moved forward, and is now the Monday after the draft which this year is April 29th.

The move was made to incentivize teams to sign veteran free agents shortly after the NFL draft instead of waiting until shortly before camp, as many teams had done in the past. The thinking was that those veterans would then be able to participate in a team’s OTAs and offseason program instead of sitting on their couch and waiting for a call in July or August. Ultimately, this change resulted in a “second wave” of free agency, where teams picked up their free agency activity again right after the draft.

For the Cowboys, that date holds a special significance this year, because they stand to get the maximum four compensatory picks in the 2025 NFL draft. Tyron Smith, Dorance Armstrong, and Tyler Biadasz will likely each bring a fifth-round pick, while Tony Pollard will likely net them a sixth-round pick.

That potential comp pick haul may have been one of the reasons why the Cowboys were slow as molasses in signing outside free agents this year – they didn’t want to jeopardize their 2025 comp picks.

But all of that ends on Monday at 4:00 pm ET.

The team has repeatedly emphasized that roster building is a year-round activity, and there are still some big-name free agents available, like CB Stephon Gilmore, WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Carl Lawson, or RB Dalvin Cook to name just a few.

But while free agents like Beckham or Cook might provide the type of big-name signings many Cowboys fans crave, the Cowboys haven’t traditionally brought on big-name free agents at any time in free agency, but they did bring in the occasional veteran after the draft.

2019: Alfred Morris (July)

2020: Andy Dalton, Cam Erving (both May), Everson Griffen (August)

2021: Malik Hooker (July)

2022: KaVontae Turpin (July), Anthony Barr (August)

2023: Brandon Aubrey (July)

On top of that, they got a bit more active with trades last year, bringing in Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks (both March) and then later added Trey Lance (August).

This year, the Cowboys largely sat on their hands in terms of outside free agency. But they still have needs at running back, they’ll keep their eyes peeled for defensive line help, and will likely continue to look for bargains all over the roster, even if the list of remaining veterans is slim pickings indeed.

But with the surplus of picks coming in 2025, the Cowboys may want to explore a different route. Instead of sifting through the free agency leftovers, perhaps they could use one or more of the 2025 late-round picks to trade for a veteran player from another team?

Who would you want the Cowboys to go out and get?


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