Repeat after me: the Cowboys emphasis as free agency begins is to sign their own.
As revelations go, this ranks up there with learning that USA Network is about to show another episode of NCIS or Modern Family. But don’t let the repetition blur another key point.
The Cowboys will make a strong push for Earl Thomas.
The mutual attraction between Thomas and the Cowboys is no secret. But an assumption has developed in recent weeks that it will be nothing more than a public flirtation, that Dallas doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to land the Pro Bowl safety before the week is done.
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That could be how this process unfolds. But to dismiss the Cowboys interest or chances of pulling this off is premature.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones was engaged in discussions with Seattle to acquire Thomas leading up to last April’s draft. The lines of communication remained open afterwards. Dallas was willing to part with a second round pick for Thomas, an offer that stood until the season for the Seahawks safety came to an end in Week 4 with a broken leg.
Dallas didn’t express interest in Thomas for that long to show no interest now that he’s about to become a free agent. That makes no sense.
Can Dallas throw as much money at Thomas as some other teams? No. But are you certain the contracts competitors offer the soon-to-be-30-year-old safety will be exorbitantly more than what the Cowboys put on the table?
The club pursued Sammy Watkins in free agency one year ago before the receiver signed a three-year, $48 million deal with Kansas City. The Cowboys offer was in the financial neighborhood. Watkins simply decided to go with a different offensive system in a market that would allow him to have a lower profile.
Thomas craves the profile that comes from playing with the Cowboys. He also wants to be the sport’s highest-paid safety, a distinction he’s convinced he deserves. Can he get that from Dallas?
Probably not to the financial level he seeks. But the Cowboys regard Thomas as a special talent, an assessment that minimizes concerns about his age. The club will make a competitive offer. It should be close enough to whatever else he receives to require a decision.
The Cowboys won’t concede.
The last time the club spent big money to land a free agent was in 2012 when it signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million contract. The club became more judicious of what it offered in succeeding years until last year’s pursuit of Watkins.
The Cowboys will be equally aggressive in their pursuit of Thomas. If he says no, they’ll move on.
It won’t take long for all of this to shake out. Free agents can sign with a new team beginning Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock. But negotiations between a team and a player’s representative can begin Monday. That’s why the top players available the last three years have signed deals within the first 24 to 48 hours of free agency.
Thomas is one of the top players. He’ll have a new team before the week is done. No one can say with any certainty that it will be the Cowboys.
But it’s unwise to dismiss Dallas at this stage.