As cliche as it may sound by now, the Dallas Cowboys may finally be ready for that Super Bowl push.
Although the Cowboys haven’t made a Super Bowl appearance since the 1995 season — in fact, they haven’t advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since then — the 2023 season may finally represent the turning point for the underachieving franchise.
While the Cowboys haven’t made any major signings through the first week of free agency, they’ve made two big underrated trades in acquiring veteran wide receiver Brandin Cooks and a former Defensive Player of the Year in cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
And in doing so, the Cowboys may have their best team that’s suited for a Super Bowl push since Troy Aikman was taking snaps for the franchise.
In acquiring both players while giving up very little, Dallas addressed their two biggest positions of need by trading for veteran players who have experience in big games. Cooks has largely served as a No. 1 receiver since entering the league in 2014, posting six 1,000-yard seasons since 2015. He’s also appeared in six postseason games, including back-to-back Super Bowl appearances during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
“I couldn’t be more hungry,” Cooks said shortly after the trade, via Charean Williams of NBC Sports. “The last three years is what it is, but I tell you when you step into a locker room like this and an organization, and you got those three years under your belt like that, I mean, that fuel is just definitely fueling the fire to be able to come out here and just show up and help my team win. I can’t wait. I truly can’t.”
As far as Gilmore is concerned, the five-time Pro Bowler remains one of the top players at his position, having started 16 games last season while posting a career-high 66 tackles and managing to appear in 99% of the defensive snaps in games he appeared in. Secondly, he has a Super Bowl ring from his days as a member of the New England Patriots and has seven postseason games — two Super Bowl appearances — to his name.
Dallas merely gave up a 2023 fifth-round draft pick and a 2024 sixth-round draft pick to acquire Cooks from the Houston Texans. Not only will the Texans pay $6 million of the $18 million that was originally owed to Cooks for this season, the Cowboys have since restructured his contract to benefit the team’s salary cap situation. Cooks’ cap hit will only count $6 million towards Dallas’ salary cap this season and he has a base salary of just $8 million for the 2024 season.
Meanwhile, Gilmore was acquired for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. Like Cooks, the 32-year-old is also likely a short-term rental, due for a cap hit of just under $10 million. That makes Gilmore just the 15th-highest paid cornerback in the league.
In a matter of days, the Cowboys acquired a legitimate No. 2 receiver — who has starred as a No. 1 for the majority of his career — to pair alongside CeeDee Lamb and a No. 2 cornerback to star opposite of two-time Pro Bowler Trevon Diggs.
This isn’t to say the Cowboys are without their flaws. They obviously will have to find a way to replace Dak Prescott’s favorite safety blanket in tight end Dalton Schultz following his signing with the Texans. Furthermore, they still have to sign a workhorse running back to take the pressure off of Tony Pollard following his fractured fibula injury and the release of Ezekiel Elliott.
Furthermore, as good as Cooks is, he fits more into the star category rather than the superstar one. Acquiring Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins would have been a lot more costly, but it would have been an absolute game-changer. Acquiring Cooks finally gives the Cowboys a legitimate option, but it doesn’t exactly make them the team to beat in the NFC over the Philadelphia Eagles.
With that being said, the NFC appears to be even weaker entering the 2023 season than it did last year. The NFC South is an afterthought with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of contender mode following the retirement of Tom Brady. Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers are preparing to trade longtime quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the conference and the San Francisco 49ers are still trying to figure out who their starting quarterback will be on opening day.
That basically means the biggest roadblock for the Cowboys when it comes to a Super Bowl LVIII appearance will likely be their biggest division rival, the Eagles.
While the Eagles were obviously the best team in the NFC during the 2022 season, we never saw a fair matchup between both teams. Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush started during Dallas’ Week 6 loss to the Eagles, while former Philadelphia backup quarterback Gardner Minshew started during the team’s loss to the Cowboys in Week 16.
The Eagles — who will be forced to replace multiple key starters from last season’s team — likely won’t be as strong as they were this past season, when they went 15-1 with Jalen Hurts as the starting quarterback.
That’s simply good news for the Cowboys, as they’ll likely have to beat the Eagles to win a Lombardi Trophy.
The Cowboys are not a lock for a Super Bowl appearance in New Orleans. However, this season is shaping up to be their best chance at making an appearance in decades.