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Cowboys keeping their powder dry during first wave of NFL free agency

The Dallas Cowboys focused more on retaining their own players rather than acquiring newly available talent as free agency gets underway in the NFL

DALLAS — The legal tampering period of free agency in the NFL has begun with official signings due to begin on Wednesday and the Dallas Cowboys are standing by their company line from the past handful of offseasons.

It has become increasingly rare to see Dallas get involved in the big money players available on the first day or two of free agency. Instead, the Cowboys more often focus on re-signing their own guys while waiting for the second wave to cool off the price tag. That was the case again yesterday.

While some teams were rebuilding with high-priced talent, the Cowboys made some small moves as they prepared for their eventual bigger signings. If you’re a Cowboys fan, you should know to be patient with how the team handles free agency as the big names drop off the board.

Here’s what the Cowboys accomplished at the onset of free agency:

Dallas once again worked to establish their wide receiver room and ensured that not much will change in 2021. That’s potentially a very good thing. The Cowboys have one of the league’s most dynamic trios at the position, but there wasn’t anyone guaranteed to return behind Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup.

That changed with the re-upping of depth option Noah Brown and the tendering of Cedrick Wilson. Both will be back to fill out the target options for Dak Prescott that should produce one of the finest units in the league.

Hopefully securing the wideouts doesn’t close the door on adding a receiver somewhere else this offseason, especially since the draft is chock full of good ones, but Dallas made it less of a need by keeping Brown and Wilson.

The Cowboys also retained help at defensive tackle. Dalvin Tomlinson was the ideal pickup for the defense, but he was scooped up quickly by the Minnesota Vikings as one of the top free agents available which, of course, meant that he was offered more money than Dallas was willing to spend. So the Cowboys responded as they usually do, by bringing back one of their own guys.

Dallas tendered Antwaun Woods, which in all likelihood means the rotational DT will return.

While Woods likely isn’t as impactful as Tomlinson could have been for Dallas, he provides continuity as he has started in 32 of the 39 games he has played for Dallas over the last three seasons.

Dallas wasn’t without a shocking move, however, as they signed a long snapper. The team added former Los Angeles Rams snapper Jake McQuaide to handle the special teams snapping duties. It was a surprising signing considering longtime LS L.P. Ladouceur had expressed an interest in returning to the Cowboys.

There didn’t seem to be a need to replace Ladouceur since he’s never had an errant snap in his 16 years with the team, but special teams coordinator John Fassel does have a relationship with McQuaide after coaching him at his last stop in L.A.

Even though McQuaide is seven years younger than Ladouceur, moving on from their stalwart snapper was not something many expected the Cowboys to do. The longest tenured Cowboy is now likely done with the organization.

While it wasn’t a big day for Dallas, it was a big day for Fassel as he also saw the return of ST ace C.J. Goodwin. Dallas handed the cornerback a two-year, $3.5 million deal that includes $2 million guaranteed. Goodwin isn’t known much for his play in the base defense but he’s been by far their most impactful special teams performer – mostly in coverage and tackling – over the last few seasons.

Other than those under-the-radar moves to retain their own talent, the Cowboys have stood pat. There were some rumblings about adding a safety, namely Damontae Kazee, who played for new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn when he was the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, but a signing there hasn’t materialized yet.

If Kazee were added, it would be a classic small move to fill a hole that the Cowboys have trended toward in recent years in free agency.

The first wave of free agency was business as usual for the Cowboys, who continue to keep a tight grip on the purse for talent outside the organization. The plan remains the same: Let the best and most expensive talent sign elsewhere, re-sign the players they like, and find affordable options who can contribute at a lower cost later in the offseason while counting on their ability to make shrewd selections in the draft to enhance the roster and continue the cycle.

Expect more of the same from the Cowboys in the next day or two before they make their mark. 

Do you agree with the Cowboys’ philosophy of avoiding the big ticket players in free agency? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.