Roster Building: Draft and Develop vs the modern cap era method

Most Cowboys fans could probably agree on one thing these days: This has not been a great off-season so far. Yes, we still have the draft and some minor FA moves ahead, but the early report card grade on the Cowboys would have to be an F if we’re being honest. If we’re generous we could possibly say it’s an “I” for incomplete.

Although none of us know for sure, it appears the front office is once again using the roster building philosophy known as “Draft and Develop”. This is a model we started using in the Garrett era. It centers on teams being stingy in FA and put almost all of their emphasis on the draft, expecting the players drafted in the first 3 rounds to have immediate impact and later to develop the other players for depth and STs. It’s not a completely crazy model.

But the best NFL GMs would consider the “Draft and Develop” model only partially effective and a bit outdated. The more modern cap era approach is to build a better roster through 3 ways:

  1. Acquire a few impactful starters in FA and/or in a trade. Target guys that will have immediate impact and not guys that are over the hill. A one or two year deal is ideal because this is about winning now- this year.
  2. A strong draft with at least 1-2 starters and at least 2 decent depth and STs players.
  3. Quality cap management. Making sure the long term guys you have committed to have good amount of flexibility in the terms of the contract. (Unlike what the team did with Dak’s deal in 2021, where all the advantages were given to Dak) And also not being afraid to admit a mistake and moving on from a guy you made a mistake with.

So how have the Cowboys done using the “Draft and Develop“ model since 2011 when Garrett took over? (2011 was when the D&D model was started here- a total of 13 seasons)

  • The Cowboys regular season record since 2011 is 123-88. That’s pretty good over 13 seasons. (that’s 58% winning%)
  • BUT…The Cowboys have made the playoffs 6 times in the last 13 seasons. That’s 46% of the time we have made the playoffs.
  • The Cowboys have only won 3 wild card playoff games in the six times they have made the playoffs since 2011.

That last bullet is the one that is the most frustrating. In essence, the “Draft and Develop” model we are seemingly following again this off-season has given 3 wild card wins in 13 years. The regular season wins are only as good as the playoff wins that follow.

The most frustrating thing to me in all this is watching this FO do the same roster building philosophy again that has yielded us 3 wild card wins in 13 years. Why would anyone expect the 14th time we do this strategy this year to somehow be the magic bullet?

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