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The Cowboys don't need to fear free agency anymore

Everyone has their fears. To some, it’s snakes or spiders. Some people fear heights and some small spaces. Whatever the fear, rational or irrational, they are difficult to overcome and more often than not, something that’s never dealt with.

For the Dallas Cowboys, the fear appears to be outside free agency. Preferring to pay the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t, Dallas’ top decision makers prefer to spend big on their own free agents. Guaranteeing large sums of money to veterans they haven’t seen play in their own scheme comes with risk, so their fears are seemingly rational, even if they are outdated.

While the salary cap is indeed a real thing, it’s also easy to manipulate and often misleading in its restrictiveness. Player contracts are often more flexible and less daunting than pure numbers indicate and rarely do players see the totality of the money outlined in their deals.

In today’s NFL, teams know more about players than ever before. They have a network of coaches to consult, detailed play logs to reference, and multiple angles of every single snap at their fingertips. Due diligence has never been easier.

With the majority of five-year contracts ending after the second or third season, big money deals aren’t as risky as they used to be. The verbiage can get a team out from the contract in half the time of the total deal. And with the ever-growing nature of the salary cap, a little dead money if things go poorly isn’t that much of an issue.

Standing on the edge of a cliff is frightening for people afraid of heights but in NFL free agency, the cliff isn’t what it used to be. Instead of a cliff, free agency is more like a rooftop bar. It’s still a height but not nearly as daunting as the cliff it used to be.

Since signing Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal in 2012, the Cowboys have appeared hesitant to attack free agency with gusto. Carr didn’t bust in Dallas but many felt he fell short of the expectations of his contract.

Despite his somewhat underwhelming play, Carr went on to play all five years in Dallas and fulfilled the length of his deal (albeit at a reduced salary in 2016). That rarely happens now.

The Cowboys are hesitant to dedicate big money to unknown entities. It’s understandable. But with most five-year deals lasting only two or three seasons, they aren’t the commitment they once were and some smart contract language can protect a team should things go poorly.

Dallas knows this. They structured Michael Gallup’s contract in a way they can escape it early if they want to. They can apply that same strategy to outside free agency in 2023. They don’t need to fear long-term contracts like they used to because players rarely play the entirety.

Free agency is only as scary as they want it to be.

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