By not making the playoffs since 2009, the Cowboys have taken a lot of the fun out of the season for many of its fans.
They aren’t exactly making the offseason fun, either.
As it stands now, the Cowboys are about $2 million under the salary cap on the eve of free agency beginning Tuesday. That’s a lot better than being $20 million over the cap, which the Cowboys were until some recent maneuvers. But $2 million won’t get you a decent safety or defensive lineman, both of which the Cowboys could desperately use.
The Cowboys could have more money to spend by the time the free agency period officially begins at 3 p.m. Dallas time on Tuesday. It all depends on what happens with DeMarcus Ware.
If the Cowboys keep Ware, his current contract will pay him $12.25 in 2014 and the Cowboys will be looking for scraps in free agency. If they cut him, they save $7.4 million in salary cap space, which probably won’t be enough to re-sign Jason Hatcher or Anthony Spencer, but it does allow some wiggle room.
And if Ware agrees to a re-worked contract, the Cowboys will also have some wiggle room under the cap, just not as much as if they release Ware.
When DeMarcus Ware’s contract status is your biggest offseason story, that doesn’t really give the fans much to get excited about. There won’t be any big free agent signings regardless of what happens, even if the Cowboys jettison Austin Miles, as expected.
There won’t even be a chance to overpay a good, but not great, player like they did cornerback Brandon Carr two offseasons ago.
And this is a team that could desperately use more good players, especially in the defensive backfield despite the signing of Carr and the drafting of Morris Claiborne.
Don’t expect much help in the draft. The Cowboys won a coin toss with the Ravens for 16th pick in the draft. Yippee!
Even if they had lost the coin toss, they’re right in the middle of the first round. The really big names of the draft will be off the board by then. They can still get a good player and a plug-in starter, but it won’t be the kind of name that will sell season tickets.
The Cowboys’ last first-rounder to generate some buzz was Dez Bryant, and Dallas got him only because his off-field concerns dropped him to 24th overall.
The Cowboys have been in the Top 10 in recent years but their picks in that rarified air haven’t been particularly sexy. Offensive tackle Tyron Smith was taken No.9 overall in 2011. He was a smart and plays a position that Cowboys too often have tried to patchwork.
The aforementioned Claiborne was taken No. 6 overall in 2012 and so far hasn’t lived up to his draft position. Claiborne’s more celebrated LSU teammate, Tyrann "Honey Badger" Mathieu" had a much more impactful rookie season after he was taken in the third round last spring.
As far as unglamorous draft picks go, it’s hard to top center Travis Frederick’s first-round selection last year. Although Frederick has been a solid starter from Day 1, most experts said taking Frederick at 31 was a reach, but that’s what happens when you neglect your offensive line you have an aging quarterback.
At least the Cowboys have a first round pick this year. Well, at least they do for now. Owner Jerry Jones’ wheeling and dealing left the Cowboys without a first or second round pick in 2009, a lost draft class that haunts the team to this day.
Remember, the Cowboys’ sell job was that they were drafting for depth in 2009, but that draft class is a huge reason they don’t have any depth.
Of course, it’s hard to find answers in the draft when you go 8-8 for three seasons in a row, just missing the playoffs each time. That’s the definition of mediocrity.
The worst thing a team can be in professional sports is average. It’s better to be either on top or at the bottom. It’s obvious why it’s more fun to be on top. When you’re at the bottom, you have many more options to improve your status, starting with higher draft status.
Instead, the Cowboys find themselves perennially cap-strapped not just because of a few big contracts given to stars like Ware and quarterback Tony Romo, but because of some really bad, big contracts given to the likes of Miles and Jay Ratliff.
They don’t win enough to make those contracts pay off and don’t lose enough to get higher draft picks that add talent and depth.
That combination has led to some dreary offseasons for Cowboys fans hoping to see their team make improvements after a long, cold winter. All they can do is throw another offensive play-caller on the fire and hope for the best.