Roughly three weeks ago, owner Jerry Jones sat on his bus outside the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and told me that the Cowboys’ focus was to win now.
He basically said that rebuilding was not in his vocabulary and not part of the plan.
“It’s not going to be any fun if we don’t go out here and compete for a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “We have that chance to compete for a Super Bowl. … Everything I am doing, everything I design, doesn’t work if you don’t compete for a Super Bowl.”
Today, I feel like the jilted lover after an arrogant spouse responds with this to a question of infidelity: “Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”
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In the Cowboys’ case, the eyes have it.
What else can be said after the events of the past two days, namely the response to the franchise-altering decision to cut Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Ware with signings of two body shots in free agency.
The Cowboys signed two backups Wednesday —former Denver Broncos defensive end Jeremy Mincey and former Houston Texans nose tackle Terrell McClain.
Can you say championship? Then how about rebuilding?
Even Ware admitted as much during an interview on NFL Network after signing a three-year, $30 million deal with the Broncos on Wednesday.
“It was a hard decision,” Ware said. “But it’s a business. They are making ‘now’ decisions with the Broncos. It’s great to be a part of that.”
Those “now” decisions in Denver include giving Ware $13 million in 2014 and $20 million guaranteed to go along with the signings of Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib ($57 million/5 years) and Pro Bowl safety T.J. Ward ($23 million/4 years).
The Broncos — who still have more than $10 million in cap room left to make other deals (the Cowboys had a little less than $9 million in cap room before Wednesday’s signings, I might add) — are the example of a team trying to win. Now.
They went to the Super Bowl last season and came up short because of shortcomings on defense. With future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning living on borrowed time, Broncos general manager John Elway knows their window to compete for titles is short and is acting accordingly.
Jones gave similar answers about the Cowboys’ quarterback, Tony Romo, who will be 34 next month, and the focus to win now.
The Cowboys’ actions so far in free agency are telling a different story.
It’s understandable, even commendable, for the Cowboys to want to get their financial house in order. Salary-cap hell has become their middle name.
Jones has been lauded far and wide the past two days for finally acting like a general manager and focusing on the bottom line and not being swayed by sentimentality.
Cool story, bro.
But the goal is supposed to be to put the best team on the field next year for the fans, who are shelling out as much as $340 a ticket for seats at JerryWorld in Arlington.
So far, that has not been the result of the Cowboys’ actions in free agency.
Certainly, they have time to get it right and time to improve.
But from my understanding, the focus in free agency will be to add as many good pieces as possible that fit under their cap structure to increase the depth and competition on the roster.
Mincey, who has 20 career sacks in seven years, got a two-year deal for $4.5 million with $2 million guaranteed and should be a good fit in Dallas as a rotational player at defensive end. There might be some concerns, however, about his character.
Before signing with the Broncos last year, he was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars for missing team meetings. Nice locker room influence for Dez Bryant, huh?
McClain is a three-year veteran who played in 16 games last season with Houston as a backup at nose tackle, registering 10 tackles.
He signed a three-year contract and will come to Dallas to play in a rotation with Nick Hayden.
Neither of those moves will prohibit the Cowboys from continuing to address the defensive line in free agency and the upcoming NFL Draft.
The Cowboys remain interested in free-agent tackles Jason Hatcher and Henry Melton.
But if Ware, at 31, was too rich and too old to pay, then the same would be true of Hatcher, also 31, with this new philosophy of getting younger and getting your cap in order.
Certainly, I believe Ware deserved to finish his career with the Cowboys. But he won. He got more money in Denver than he would have received in Dallas and he will get a chance to compete for a Super Bowl with Manning.
The person I feel sorry for is Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, who is going into a make-or-break season with no contract beyond next year.
He was sold a bill of goods on competing to win in 2014.
Rebuilding is not in his best interest, unless, of course, he got some assurances from Jones that he will be back in 2015 regardless.
If he did, who are you going to believe?
Him or your lying eyes?