The Dallas Cowboys are the most recognizable NFL franchise around. They have won five Super Bowls and earned the moniker "America's Team" because of their success. However, their last Super Bowl triumph was all the way back in January 1996. They have won just one playoff game this decade, but thanks to Madden 18 you can lead them back to the top of the mountain and hang another Super Bowl banner in the AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys have a great team rating of 88 OVR. This is thanks to a remarkably strong 97 offensive rating. Their defense is not as strong, rated 83 overall, but they are still a viable option even if you don't make any improvements to them within your Franchise Mode.
Depth Chart & Full Roster
Here is the full roster you will begin your journey with, starting with the quarterbacks.
|QB||OVR||Speed||Throw power||Short accuracy||Medium accuracy||Deep accuracy||Play action|
|FB||OVR||Speed||Run block||Pass block||Strength|
|WR||OVR||Speed||Agility||Route running||Catching||Catching in traffic|
|TE||OVR||Speed||Agility||Route running||Catching||Catching in traffic||Run block|
|OL||OVR||Speed||Strength||Run block||Pass block||Impact block|
|DE||OVR||Speed||Strength||Play recognition||Power moves||Finesse moves||Block shedding|
|DT||OVR||Speed||Strength||Play recognition||Power moves||Finesse moves||Block shedding|
|Joey Ivie IV||68||68||80||58||62||76||79|
|LOLB||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Play recognition||Tackle||Hit power|
|MLB||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Play recognition||Tackle||Hit power|
|ROLB||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Play recognition||Tackle||Hit power|
|CB||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Agility||Man coverage||Zone coverage||Press|
|Nolan Carroll II||76||90||90||87||80||71||78|
|FS||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Agility||Tackle||Play recognition||Man coverage||Zone coverage|
|SS||OVR||Speed||Acceleration||Agility||Tackle||Play recognition||Man coverage||Zone coverage|
|K||OVR||Kick power||Kick accuracy|
|P||OVR||Kick Power||Kick accuracy|
The Cowboys starters are particularly good, especially on offense. Dak Prescott's strong rookie campaign makes him a very good Madden quarterback with his solid athleticism (82 speed) and strong arm (93 throw power) meaning he can stretch the defense both vertically and laterally.
The star of this roster is the running game, with Ezekiel Elliott's awesome physical traits (92 speed, 94 agility) and the blocking of the offensive line, particularly the trio of Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, and Tyron Smith (91, 92, & 89 run block respectively).
The receivers lack high-end athleticism, but that is made up for in the sure hands of Dez Bryant and Jason Witten (95 & 93 catching).
Defensively there are a couple of standouts, but the whole defensive roster lacks depth and talent. Sean Lee is the star of the group (96 tackle, 96 play recognition) and is always around the ball. Byron Jones is another quality player at free safety (91 speed, 84 zone coverage), and both David Irving (85 finesse moves) and DeMarcus Lawrence (82 power moves) are strong defensive ends. However, the rest of the defense can be troublesome.
Playbook - Offense
I Form - H Pro
I Form - H Wing
I Form - Slot Flex
Strong I - H Pro
Strong I - H Slot
Strong I - H Y-Off
Singleback - Ace
Singleback - Ace Pair
Singleback - Ace Slot
Singleback - Bunce Ace
Singleback - Dice Slot
Singleback - Wing Flex
Singleback - Wing Pair
Singleback - Wing Tight
Singleback - Wing Tight Z
Singleback - Y Off Trips
Singleback - Y Trips
Pistol - Doubles
Shotgun - Bunch
Shotgun - Doubles Flex Wk
Shotgun - Doubles Offset
Shotgun - Doubles Y Off Wk
Shotgun - Empty Cowboy
Shotgun - Empty Trey
Shotgun - Empty Trey Stack
Shotgun - Empty Trips TE
Shotgun - Spread Y-Slot Wk
Shotgun - Trey Open
Shotgun - Trio Offset
Shotgun - Trips Y-Flex
Shotgun - Y Off Trips Wk
Shotgun - Y Trips Z-Trip
Playbook - Defense
4-3 Over Plus
4-3 Wide 9
Nickel Double A Gap
Nickel Wide 9
Quarter 3 Deep
Goal Line Defense 5-3-3
Goal Line Defense 5-4-2
Dallas need to be played in a rather specific way if you want to get the best out of them. That style is the rather old-fashioned "ball control" one in which you run the ball, bleed as much of the clock as you can on offense, maintain field position with your special teams, and don't expose your defense too much.
Given the quality of the offensive line and the depth at running back this shouldn't be too much of a problem. With Smith at LT, Frederick at C, and Martin at RG, you should be looking to run off the left edge and to the right of center. Elliott's amazing athleticism allows you to play from under center and use outside runs, counters, and leads, but it also allows you to open up a little and play in the shotgun and use zone runs, screens, and a variety of pass plays with the running back releasing.
Defensively the coverage should be mostly man, but you need to mix it up a little. Every single corner on this roster is better in man coverage than they are zone, but they aren't so good that they can do it all the time and never be beaten. Try to play man on the outside with robbers or spies over the middle and some deep help from the safeties. You won't get a lot of pressure with the front four, but DeMarcus Lawrence can provide good pressure off the edge and Maliek Collins is a better pass rusher than you'd think on the inside. If you do blitz try to leave Sean Lee in coverage as his ability to see what is happening and bring down ball carriers in the open field is far better than anyone else on this team.
There are only a handful of players with the "superstar" development trait. They are Zack Martin, Travis Frederick, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith, and Ezekiel Elliott. Frustratingly, those players are all about as good as can be already, and while there is nothing wrong in gaining extra XP to develop Elliott's catching ability for example, it is a little wasteful given some of the holes elsewhere in the roster. So who should you focus on?
Dak Prescott is good, but he could certainly be better. He has a "quick" development trait, so it's worth investing time in him. Jaylon Smith (MLB) also has a "quick" trait and given his strong physical stats already (85 speed, 88 acceleration), gaining some XP to put into the mental side of his game will quickly improve his level of play.
Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer also has the "quick" trait, and improving his technical stats will soon turn him into a Julian Edelman clone that can dominate from the slot.
Salary Cap & Contracts
Dallas start Madden 18 with $54.2 million in cap space, which is a lot compared to recent years where they have been very hard pressed. However, that doesn't mean you can go out and splash the cash on free agents and trades.
Both DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving are in the last year of their contracts and will not be cheap to re-sign. Giving them both a new contract will eat some $10-12 million in cap space. Right tackle La'el Collins also needs an extension that will cost you something in the region of $4-6 million per year. Starting middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens is also an impending free agent, as is starting left guard Jonathan Cooper and both backup running backs.
You also have the contracts of Zack Martin and Byron Jones that will expire after your second season with the Cowboys, both must be re-signed for the Cowboys to be a good team.
So, how can you quickly improve your team? Well, the cheapest way to add some speed to your secondary and a player than can be developed reasonably quickly is to sign Jonathan Jones from the New England Patriots practice squad.
His 95 speed and acceleration immediately makes him the best athlete in the Dallas secondary, and he fits in with the man coverage style that you will need to play. The overall rating (62) is low, but used in the right way he can be useful.
There are also several players on the trade block that could be good pieces to add at a relatively low cost. Paul Richardson (94 speed, 85 catching) is available for as little as a fourth-round draft pick. His speed gives you a deep threat on the outside that will force safeties away from Dez Bryant.
Who should you trade away?
Trading away Dez Bryant will incur a net cap penalty of around $3 million, but with just 89 speed, physicality that is on the decline, and some $22.3 million due after the initial season, he is a long way of clearing a lot of cap space, and you will get offers of a 2019 first-round pick for him as well, which is very nice.
Other than Dez there aren't many spare pieces on this roster that can be profitably traded. If you weren't inclined to re-sign players like David Irving and DeMarcus Lawrence, then you should trade them away immediately and take the hit while recouping a draft pick.
You should only move your 2018 first-round pick if you can get a star in return that fills your needs at defensive line or corner.
When can you expect a Super Bowl?
The Dallas Cowboys roster needs a defensive overhaul to be a real threat to go deep in the playoffs. With the starting roster you will need to be brilliant on offense to make up for the deficiencies on defense.
If you use your draft picks and cap space wisely, then it won't take long to create a defense that can hold its ground enough to allow you to challenge the powerhouses around the league. Playing with this team against the elite quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady is incredibly difficult due to the lack of pass rush and inconsistent coverage skills, but it isn't impossible. Dallas are in a tricky division, but they have the best offensive line in football and one of the best young QB-RB duos around. That is a deadly combination that good players can really dominate with.
You should be targeting at least a wildcard spot in your first year, with the NFC East crown the aim in year two and the Super Bowl a real possibility in year three.