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Dallas Cowboys offseason moves earn glowing praise from NFL executives

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since playing in the 1996 NFC Championship Game. Amid growing frustrations from the fan base and ownership, the Cowboys’ front office took an aggressive approach to the NFL offseason.

Dallas opened its offseason with significant changes to its offense. Mike McCarthy announced he will take over play-calling duties in 2023 after parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. In addition, the franchise also parted ways with running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Related: Dallas Cowboys mock draft 2023

While the Cowboys intend to run a more traditional offense next season, relying more heavily on the running game and play-action, they made a few big moves early. Wanting to improve Dan Quinn’s defense, Dallas traded a fifth-round pick to acquire cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

NFL executives spoke to The Athletic’s Mike Sando about how every team performed this offseason. Among the many compliments offered towards Dallas, trading for Gilmore received strong praise from one high-ranking league official.

“You always worry about aging corners, but because of his instincts and smarts and staying on top of routes and using his hands to reroute guys off the line of scrimmage, I thought he was a huge get for the Cowboys.”

NFL executive on the Dallas Cowboys acquiring cornerback Stephon Gilmore

While Gilmore is no longer the All-Pro player that dominated in the NFL as a shutdown cornerback with the New England Patriots, he will be an excellent No. 2 corner in Dallas. As a 32-year-old last season, Gilmore allowed just an 82.6 passer rating on passes thrown toward him with just a 63.4 percent reception rate surrendered (Pro Football Focus).

Even if he lost a step athletically, Gilmore’s instincts and experience make him a high-end starter opposite of Trevon Diggs and he’ll also help the young Cowboys’ star learn to play the position better. Paired with a strong pass rush, Dallas is expecting its pass defense to be one of the best in the NFL next season.

Acquiring Gilmore isn’t the only move the team made. After being unable to get him before the NFL trade deadline in 2022, the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2024 sixth-round pick.

Another NFL executive explained to Sando why he loved the addition of Cooks and believes it can make the Cowboys’ offense even more dangerous next season.

Related: Dallas Cowboys reviewed interceptions with Dak Prescott this offseason

“He can still take the top off and he has been productive as a 1, so if teams choose to bracket CeeDee (Lamb) and roll coverage to CeeDee, Cooks is a player that can be pretty dangerous for them.”

Anonymous NFL executive on Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brandin Cooks

The Houston Texans agreed to cover $6 million of Cooks’ salary for next season and the veteran wide receiver then agreed to a contract restructure to help Dallas. By making the deal, the Cowboys now have the No. 2 receiver that their passing attack lacked a year ago.

Dallas accomplished all of this without trading its top picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. By addressing cornerback and wide receiver, the Cowboys will now have greater freedom to take the best player available in the early rounds instead of drafting for need.

Related: 3 players the Dallas Cowboys must target in the 2023 NFL Draft

With the Cowboys’ roster in better shape heading into next season, they should be favored to win the NFC East and go on a playoff run. If the team falls short of expectations, in a season with McCarthy calling plays, owner Jerry Jones could make even bigger changes next year.

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