Dallas Cowboys Free Agency: Top 5 Studs Cowboys Must Go After

Ethan GrantAnalyst IMarch 12, 2012

Dallas Cowboys Free Agency: Top 5 Studs Cowboys Must Go After

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    The Dallas Cowboys enter the official beginning to revamping their squad on Tuesday, when they can start adding pieces to push an 8-8 finisher to contender under the watchful eyes of both owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett.

    The long-awaited arrival of NFL Free Agency is less than 24 hours away. Tomorrow morning, on March 13, teams can begin bidding for current NFL players without a team, hoping to woo them into another uniform for the 2012 season.

    Names like Peyton Manning, Mario Williams and Mike Wallace (restricted) are somewhat there for the taking. But for the Cowboys, they must address a number of needs with a quantity-over-quality approach.

    That being said, even if they must stretch and sign one big-name free agent to bolster an area of need, that has to be considered a success, especially with the draft as a fall-back for adding talent and depth.

    Here are five studs Dallas should target as hunting season opens. Keep in mind, just one of these guys would be a major upgrade over their current Cowboy counterparts.

    So in order of the impact they would make to this team, here it is.

5. Red Bryant, DT

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    Bryant, the former Texas A&M Aggie, isn't a name many have heard around Dallas in regard to filling the need for a defensive tackle. But the four-year pro could be exactly the type of low-market name that could allow Jay Ratliff to slide to defensive end without losing any run-stopping ability.

    It's expected that the Seattle Seahawks will want to keep an integral part of their defense and rumors of his return for a deal similar to that of teammate Brandon Mebane last offseason have surfaced. But a return to his native Texas might be attractive to Bryant, who might be able to squeeze a little more money and security out of Jerry Jones if he is graded as a solid replacement in the middle.

    The 6'5", 325-pounder also contributed on special teams, developing a reputation for blocking kicks in big moments. Although he completed just his first full season as a 16-game starter, the results were good for Seattle, who finished seventh in points allowed per game and ninth in yards per game.

    If they don't grade out a solid DT in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Cowboys could address it in free agency and the Texas native should be someone they take a look at.

4. Channing Crowder, ILB

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    This one is going to be off-the-wall. I know that and I'm prepared to reap the feedback in the comment section below, but Crowder could be exactly the kind of spark plug that the Cowboys need in terms of toughness and grit.

    Let's get real—neither one of those character traits are too familiar with players on the current defense. Crowder, who earlier this year confirmed his attempt at an NFL comeback, provided that for the only Miami Dolphins team in recent memory that made the postseason (2008).

    Only 29 years old, he would be an immediate upgrade over Keith Brooking and arguably also Bradie James. His presence could help bridge the gap until Bruce Carter is ready to be the full-time starter opposite budding star Sean Lee.

    This one could be a long shot. But the 'Boys should give Crowder a workout to prove he can still compete at a high level as one of the inside guys in the 3-4 defense. If he impresses, he could be worth a shot.

3. Melvin Bullitt, S

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    Bullitt, another local kid (born in Bryan, TX) from Texas A&M, could provide some necessary depth and talent to a secondary without much of either.

    Abram Elam is a free agent after his one-year stint as Rob Ryan's secondary glue guy and it seems unlikely the team will bring him back. After being released by the Indianapolis Colts in another cost-cutting move, Bullitt might be intrigued by coming back to his home state and playing with a star on his helmet.

    He's only 28, and pairing him with Gerald Sensabaugh at safety might help Ryan diversify his system even more in his second season as the defensive coordinator. Danny McCray and Barry Church are contenders for playing time, but it's unlikely either would lap Elam as a true upgrade.

    Bullitt was a starter on the Colts team that lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV.

2. Carl Nicks, OG

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    It's well-documented that Nicks is looking to become the highest paid guard in the NFL. He'll likely get his wish, since he's widely considered the top lineman on the market and New Orleans has not the cap space nor the desire to pay him in such a manner.

    That being said, Dallas realistically doesn't have the mustard to sign him either. But alas, I've seen Jerry Jones do stranger things for lesser players, so if the Cowboys didn't do their due diligence regarding his desire to change teams then it would be a shame.

    The only reason Nicks isn't heading up this list is the unlikelihood that Dallas can snatch him away from a team like Kansas City or Washington, who both have superior cap space.

    It's not as if Dallas is set at guard, seeing as they have four interior lineman on the roster with only three years or less experience (Bill Nagy, Kevin Kowalski, Phil Costa, David Arkin). The other (Kyle Kosier, 10 years) won't be around much longer.

    Look for the Cowboys to inquire about Nicks. But they will likely have to take a lesser approach, scouring the draft and the lower-level talent pool to find a way to shore up an obvious area of need in protecting their former All-Pro quarterback.

1. Brandon Carr, CB

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    Carr should be the top priority for the Cowboys in free agency. He's young (25), talented (eight INTs and 63 pass defensed in four seasons) and if Dallas does the right thing and rids themselves of Terence Newman's contract, they have the space to sign him and some additional help.

    Not only that, but drafting a cornerback becomes less of a priority with the 14th overall pick. Does Jerry trade down for a few more picks? Does he go after Stanford G David DeCastro more aggressively? He could even surprise us all, choosing to take a defensive lineman like North Carolina's Quinton Coples.

    Cortland Finnegan is also a name floating around as a possible solution in the secondary, but I like Carr more based on the upside and the recent news that Finnegan is looking to bring Vincent Jackson with him in any deal.

    Carr could be the center-point of the offseason movement in Dallas. Adding a young guy with room to grow into an elite corner opposite Mike Jenkins has to be a dream come true for Jerry Jones. The secondary has been a source of constant angst for a decade; now is the time to make the move for a true playmaker.

    Jason Garrett and Jones should make Carr the crown jewel of their free agent haul. If they do, they might have enough space to sign another guy on this list or even a target of their own, then prepare like heck for the 2012 NFL Draft in April.