1993 Review: Free Agency Becomes the New Offseason Game

Emmitt Smith threatened to leave the Cowboys via free agency after the 1992 season.

Until 1993, NFL teams were generally in control of the players who might have wanted to leave teams for greener pastures. The Dallas Cowboys never had to worry about Roger Staubach or Tony Dorsett signing with other teams– unless the Cowboys decided to let these players go.

The headline in the February 25, 1993 issue of the Dallas Morning News was thus disheartening: “Smith Expects Offers, Prepared to Leave Cowboys.” Yes, that was the same Emmitt Smith who had just led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship after winning his second consecutive NFL rushing title.

The article read in part:

This is possibly rhetoric in the absence of real leverage, because Emmitt Smith cannot simply take the money and run. But the Cowboys running back and two-time NFL rushing champion said Wednesday he is prepared to change teams to obtain the highest contract.

Smith, who is about to become a restricted free agent, said for the first time he plans to make personal appearances with teams interested in him. He also anticipates at least one will make him a lucrative offer to leave the Cowboys.

“I see ways I could leave here,” Smith said. “Whether I’m going to remain with the Dallas Cowboys remains to be seen.”

Just after this article was published, the Cowboys announced that they had made Michael Irvin their transitional player, giving Dallas the right to match any offer made for Irvin by another team.

Smith made some waves by meeting with the Buccaneers and Dolphins during the offseason, but he obviously never signed with these teams. On the other hand, his contract issues weren’t resolved for several months.

Dallas didn’t manage to avoid all losses during this first free agency period. Backup QB Steve Beuerlein signed with the Arizona Cardinals, and WR Kelvin Martin signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

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  • I can’t imagine he was ever serious about Tampa Bay, but imagining an early 1990’s Dolphins team with both Marino and Emmitt is pretty staggering.