Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy talks Amari Cooper trade, Randy Gregory departure and more

Mike McCarthy senses your frustration.

He knows you’re wondering why the Cowboys didn’t stand neck and neck with other teams on free hands and swing away. He’s here to get you off the edge.

Or at least try.

“We’re still in the top 15,” McCarthy said. “The first quarter isn’t even over yet. When people are frustrated, games are sometimes a little frustrating.

“We definitely came out with a run the football and mind your own mindset. Outside of our own squad, we have a mindset where we’re not going to throw the ball deep with every snap.

“How’s that for a football analogy?”

It’s appropriate. Will it appease the angry masses?

What do you think?

McCarthy took time out Saturday to discuss the Amari Cooper trade and its implications for CeeDee Lamb, the decision to release La’el Collins and Randy Gregory’s unexpected departure. He spoke about the first two players from outside the organization the Cowboys have signed — receiver James Washington and defensive end Dante Fowler — and the importance of next month’s draft.

“This is a huge, huge draft class for us in terms of how we’re going to maintain our roster integrity and how we’re moving forward,” McCarthy said.

But first, Cooper and Collins.

“I mean, Amari Cooper is a fantastic football player,” McCarthy said. “He does some things that make him the best, especially his side release speed is about as good as I’ve ever worked. That was a difficult, difficult decision.

“The same goes for La’el. You don’t want to lose players like that. But when you talk about competition, there is also competition and financial challenge. You need to make business decisions that fit the dynamics of your cap.”

Part of those decisions has to do with who else is on site. The Cowboys believe Lamb is ready to take on Cooper’s role as the team’s lead receiver. He’ll switch to the flanker and spend less time in the slot now that Cooper is gone.

“Look at his trajectory,” McCarthy said of Lamb. “Look at what he did from first year to sophomore. Now he has to go one step further.

“It will be a different step for him because he will be given more attention. He’ll be more of a defensive focal point. But with this greater responsibility comes more opportunities for him to continue to improve.”

Gregory’s departure for Denver threw the Cowboys on their heels. The emotions of many in the organization are raw, especially as the defensive end struck a verbal agreement to stay before exploding within 39 minutes on Tuesday.

McCarthy was hoping to keep Gregory in the top seven along with DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons. That was the goal. But the Cowboys head coach gives no indication that he feels betrayed or resents Gregory’s decision.

“I felt Randy had a really, really big impact on our football team last year, on and off the field,” McCarthy said. “He is a unique personality. I’ve been very fond of Randy in our year and a half together.

“You learn that early in your head coaching career, believe me you can burn off a lot of fear and emotion when you lose players in a financial competition. It happens.

“These are business opportunities for all players and you want the lads to do well. You want to benefit from it as best as possible. Sometimes that doesn’t align with your goals.”

McCarthy is encouraged by the free agents the Cowboys have been able to keep to this point and loves the “juice and blast” that comes with the additions of Washington and Fowler. He talks about the culture established in his first two seasons as head coach.

“Every time I talk about our squad, I really love our locker room and watch it continue to grow,” he said.

McCarthy is not naive. He doesn’t minimize the impact of players traded, cut or lost by the team over the past few days. He’s not arguing that the Cowboys are better today in terms of individual talent than they were Monday when the open-hand negotiation window began.

But building a team isn’t just about individual talent. It’s about the roles players take and how that relates to the team. It’s about young players in the roster taking on more responsibility and talent from the draft class to keep things going.

“Our goal was to get as many of our own free agents back as we knew it was going to be difficult with some of them,” McCarthy said. “Hey, we knew it was going to be difficult. Hopefully we can finish strong.”

It’s time.

McCarthy will tell you that the first quarter isn’t over yet.

First action

A look at the comings and goings of the Cowboys over the past eight days.

Traded (1): WR Amari Cooper

Cut (1): RT La’el Collins

retained (9): WR Michael Gallup, TE Dalton Schultz, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, S Malik Hooker, LB Leighton Vander Esch, DE Dorance Armstrong, WR Noah Brown, LS Jake McQuaide, LB Luke Gifford

Added (2): WR James Washington, DE Dante Fowler

Lost (3): DE Randy Gregory, LG Connor Williams, WR Cedrick Wilson

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