The 2018 season appears to be all about the Seahawks showing us how quickly the window closes on teams' dynasty dreams. At least the Cowboys hope that continues to be the case when they participate in Seattle's home opener Sunday.
But before we get into the details of Seattle's 0-2 start, let's remember the Seahawks provided the blueprint for Dallas and others on how to capitalize after winning the lottery at quarterback. Seattle drafted Wisconsin's Russell Wilson with the 75th pick in 2012, not only long after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III went at the top of the draft but after Brandon Weeden and Brock Osweiler were picked as well. Just as Dallas would not expect Dak Prescott to start in 2016 as a rookie, Seattle thought it was getting a backup to Matt Flynn.
But things changed.
Wilson was the better quarterback almost immediately. He won a playoff game as a rookie (against RG III in a game that, practically speaking, ended his career as a starter). That offseason the Seahawks took advantage of the fact Wilson would be stuck with salaries of $525,000 and $662,000 the next two seasons to supplement their roster, to make a good team great.
They mostly missed on a trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin (although he made big plays in the Super Bowl) but they hit on free-agent signings of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril for the defensive line. The Seahawks won the 2013 Super Bowl, and we all know how close they came to repeating before their failure at the 1-yard line against New England.
Wilson got his new deal after that, one that included a $31 million bonus. Seattle remained a talented team, winning playoff games but losing in the division round the next two seasons before missing the playoffs on the final Sunday last year.
With so many familiar faces having departed, it now looks like Wilson and a bunch of guys that will take on the Cowboys. And Dallas needs to take advantage of that, and perhaps the fact that the next three opponents (Seattle, Detroit, Houston) are all 0-2 at the moment, to get on a run and become a factor in the NFC chase.
The question that will always remain is this: After the Cowboys enjoyed extremely similar success with Prescott as a rookie -- a 13-3 season that ended in the division round -- why did the team go the opposite direction and begin to jettison veterans (a practice that has continued in earnest this season with Dez Bryant, Dan Bailey, Orlando Scandrick and the unintentional wave goodbye to Jason Witten) rather than build?
As a late fourth-round pick, Prescott had base salaries of $450,000 as a rookie, $540,000 last year and $630,000 this season. If he showed signs of recovery Sunday night and he proves to be as solid as head Coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones profess him to be, Prescott will get an extension next season and his salary will skyrocket. The opportunity to win with an overproducing, undersalaried quarterback will be gone.
That doesn't mean the Cowboys can't capitalize on having one of the youngest rosters in the league this season and perhaps next year, too.
But this is not an experienced veteran team around Prescott. The Cowboys had that to some degree but decided to completely overhaul the secondary after that surprisingly good 2016 season. They made other changes this offseason that have left the club with two players over 30 years old -- linebacker Sean Lee and deep snapper L.P. Ladouceur.
Maybe the youth and the speed will ultimately set this team apart from the rest of the NFC East. But that's a long shot. The opportunity to win with a young undersalaried quarterback fell into the Cowboys' lap when both Tony Romo and Kellen Moore were injured in the summer of 2016. Prescott delivered as a rookie, and the team had a decision to make that offseason.
The Cowboys could have gone Seattle's direction and pursued what they might have perceived as final pieces of the puzzle for a 13-3 team. But they chose a completely different path, one that seems to be working on defense and has left some big question marks at wide receiver and tight end on offense.
This team didn't learn from what Seattle showed the football world five years ago. Now they can at least try to take advantage of what the Seahawks showed us the last two weeks, that one's time at the top is always limited.
Sports on 09/22/2018
Print Headline: Can Cowboys cash in with youngsters?