Free-agency grades: Cowboys lose Hitchens but play it smart overall

Anthony Hitchens signed a five-year, $45 million deal to join the Kansas City Chiefs. Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Here is a breakdown of the initial wave of free agency for the Dallas Cowboys:

Overall grade: B-minus. The Cowboys haven't been willing to make a splash in free agency, preferring to wait for the market to calm down. They have been able to add players who could be significant pieces, such as receiver Allen Hurns and tackle Cameron Fleming. But considering their recent history of misses in free agency, regardless of cost, there has to be a little caution.

Most significant signing: Hurns might end up being it, depending on what happens with Dez Bryant. But Fleming allows the Cowboys the option to move La’el Collins back to guard. Collins improved in 2017 right tackle, but he has the chance to be a dominant guard. Playing between Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick will help as well. If Fleming can handle the right tackle spot, then the Cowboys could have the most imposing interior line in the NFL with Collins, Frederick and Zack Martin.

Most significant loss: The Cowboys knew they were not going to be able to compete financially for linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on a five-year deal averaging $9 million per season. Hitchens was a valuable piece of the defense and had the ability to play all three linebacker spots. The Cowboys signed Joe Thomas, but he should not be viewed as a potential starter. With the way their offseason is shaking out, it looks more likely that the Cowboys will find Hitchens’ replacement in the draft, perhaps with their first-round pick.

Player they should have signed: The Cowboys made a play for Sammy Watkins and were willing to overspend for him, but he got $16 million a year from the Chiefs. Considering Watkins had 39 catches last season, not breaking the bank for him could work in Dallas' favor. But the player the Cowboys should have signed is one of their own: defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence. They were able to keep him on the franchise tag, but he is chewing up $17.143 million in cap room on the one-year deal. A multiyear deal would have given the Cowboys more cap-room clout to add more significant pieces. The good news: Lawrence is a Cowboy for 2018. The bad news: The likelihood of a long-term deal does not look so good.

Additions: LB Joe Thomas, WR Allen Hurns, WR Deonte Thompson, OT Cameron Fleming, OL Marcus Martin

Subtractions: LB Anthony Hitchens, FB Keith Smith, LB Kyle Wilber, OG Jonathan Cooper

What’s next: The Cowboys aren’t necessarily finished shopping in free agency, but it has to be the right player at the right price. There will always be the possibility of adding safety Earl Thomas in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, but that will be costly in terms of draft picks and money. Most of the Cowboys' focus is on the upcoming draft. With 10 picks, they could be able to move around to fill specific needs by using late-round picks to move up in different rounds. If they make 10 selections in the draft, then they made a mistake because there is no chance they will have all 10 players make the roster out of training camp.