National Football League
Cowboys 'all-in' on bargain bin? 5 free agents who could help Dallas in 2024
National Football League

Cowboys 'all-in' on bargain bin? 5 free agents who could help Dallas in 2024

Updated May. 22, 2024 2:17 a.m. ET

Better late than never?

We’ve practically reached summer, so there’s no need to rehash the Cowboys’ inactivity during this offseason. Despite Jerry Jones’ infamous proclamation of going "all-in," the Cowboys look determined to rely on their youth in 2024.

Still, talent acquisition is a 365-day-a-year effort, as Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones likes to say. With the draft behind us, and free-agent signings no longer affecting the precious compensatory pick formula for 2025, this might be the time of year when the Cowboys feel comfortable hunting for difference-makers at a much lower price.

There's precedent for it. The Cowboys made Anthony Barr a summer signing back in 2022, and they did the same with Everson Griffen in 2020. The talent pool is a bit thinner, but that's what happens when you wait two months.


With that, here are five available veterans who could impact this year's roster.

1. Stephon Gilmore (CB)

Let's start with the obvious one. Gilmore started all 17 games for the Cowboys last year and held down his side of the field amid Trevon Diggs' absence for most of the season. The former Patriots star will turn 34 this season, and it's fair to say he's not the NFL Defensive Player of the Year that he was five years ago. But he's still an above-average starter and can be a useful part of a strong defense.

Given his age and résumé, it's not surprising that Gilmore is waiting out the market — either for the best offer, or the best chance to contend. Or both.

It's worth noting that the Cowboys do have a pair of All-Pros in Diggs and DaRon Bland. But Diggs is returning from a torn ACL, and Bland struggled a bit down the stretch despite logging an NFL-high nine interceptions. Having a third quality starter wouldn't be a bad thing, depending on price.

In fact, a corner room of Diggs, Bland, Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis would be among the NFL's best.

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2. Linval Joseph (DT)

It's an annual tradition to see the veteran defensive tackle pop up on a contender at this point, so don't be surprised if several teams are trying to coax Joseph back for one more campaign.

The Cowboys have an ace up their sleeve, though — defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. Joseph signed on with Minnesota during Zimmer's stint as Vikings head coach and earned the only two Pro Bowl nods of his career. A reunion sounds like it'd be mutually beneficial, especially given the state of the Cowboys' run defense.

Joseph will turn 36 later this year, and if he plays, it will be his 15th NFL season. This definitely isn't some kind of long-term fix. But if he could give them 10-plus games and shore up their run defense, it'd be worth the spend.

3. Emmanuel Ogbah (LB)

This one makes a ton of sense if you know your history. Drafted all the way back in 2016, Ogbah was one of the Cowboys' favorite targets to select with their No. 34 overall pick.

Unfortunately for Dallas, the Cleveland Browns made Ogbah the first pick of the second round, just two spots in front of them. The Cowboys wound up taking Jaylon Smith, and the rest is history. Maybe now is the time to make it happen. Ogbah is 30 and coming off 5.5 sacks as a rotational player for the Dolphins.

The issue is that the Cowboys are trying to get younger on the edge. They're undoubtedly hoping Sam Williams can make a bigger impact in Year 3, and they just drafted Marshawn Kneeland in the second round. Those two are going to get the first look at filling in behind Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Still, don't discount the impact of losing Dorance Armstrong and Dante Fowler Jr. in the same spring. They wouldn't need Ogbah to carry a heavy load, but he could be a useful piece for the pass rush.

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4. Michael Thomas (WR)

Thomas would instantly give the Cowboys' receiver corps one thing it doesn't have, and that's size.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he's notably bigger than CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks and Jalen Tolbert. He'd be an obvious candidate to be a traditional X receiver, drawing matchups on the boundary and (hopefully) opening the middle of the field for Lamb. His size and ability to box out defenders would make him a natural target for Dak Prescott in the intermediate area of the field.

Obviously, there are huge caveats. Thomas' 2019 NFL Offensive Player of the Year performance feels like ancient history, as injuries have limited him to just 20 games over the past four years. Availability is a very real concern, otherwise he wouldn't still be on the market in late May.

It's hard to see the downside, though. Thomas caught 39 balls for 448 yards in the 10 games he did play last year, and the Cowboys would only be asking him to be their third or fourth receiver. He shouldn't be expensive to sign, which means the risk of losing him to injury is negligible. And if both sides can tap into the talent that made him a two-time All-Pro, the upside is massive.

It's exactly the kind of bargain hunter's deal the Cowboys are famous for, and it'd be fun to see if it worked.

5. Donovan Smith (OT)

This is more of an idea for the future than a current need.

The Cowboys drafted Tyler Guyton with the 29th overall pick in this year's draft, and they're obviously going to give their rookie a chance to start at left tackle. Ideally, Guyton hits the ground running the way Tyler Smith and Zack Martin did. But if not, the Cowboys may want to consider their options.

Smith could obviously move to tackle, as he has done before. But by that point, he'll have spent two training camps and the full 2023 season at guard.

Rather than move Smith until Guyton is ready, maybe the Cowboys could make a small spend to bring on a veteran like Donovan Smith.

Coming off his ninth season as a starting left tackle, Smith's game is effective if unflashy. Yes, the Chiefs' tackles were a constant talking point last season, as Smith was flagged 10 times on the year — though that was nothing compared to Jawaan Taylor's 20. But at the end of the day, Smith held down the left side for a championship offense, highlighted by allowing just one sack during the Chiefs' postseason run.

This is the type of move that'd likely have to wait until September to materialize. But if Guyton needs time to develop, Smith could step in. 

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports and hosts the NFL on FOX podcast. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team's official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing "Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion" about the quarterback's time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.

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