An NFL roster is a rotating door. Each year, teams face difficult decisions regarding expiring contracts and current player personnel. Despite that, the Dallas Cowboys are not staring at the tough reality of losing major contributors who, in NFL terms, are cheap labor.
One example will be when DeMarco Murray’s third-round contract expires. If the team does not extend him, they will have to decide whether to give him the big dollars or let him walk.
Regardless, in 2013, the team does face losing players who have been mainstays on their roster for the last couple of seasons.
Dallas will also be slightly limited due to a $10 million cap penalty, which has been split between the 2012 and 2013 salary caps.
As far as restricted free agents go, the organization has much more control of Phil Costa, Barry Church and Danny McCray’s futures. With that said, unrestricted free agents will be the focus of this slideshow.
So, which 2012 Cowboys should the team consider re-signing next offseason? And who should the team be looking to replace?
Dallas understood that it was not going to be able to replace Anthony Spencer last offseason, so they placed the franchise tag on him.
The team had too many holes to address early in the 2012 NFL draft to consider Spencer's position, and there was definitely not an adequate replacement on the free-agent market. Not that Dallas could afford to spend much with the money they invested in cornerback Brandon Carr.
Though he hasn’t lived up to the high expectations placed on him as a first-round pick, he is a very good player and is a key contributor to the Dallas defense. He may not get to the passer as much as the team hoped, but he is an anchor against the run.
Spencer is a solid run defender and will be the best 3-4 outside linebacker in free agency. Considering this sort of demand, Dallas is going to have to replace him.
The team is not going to be able to match a contract offer from another team because Spencer is going to get top dollar in a thin market. Unless the team plans on franchising him again, which will be about a $9 million cap figure, Dallas is going to have to find a way to replace Spencer next offseason.
His backup, Victor Butler, is also going to be a free agent next offseason.
If the Cowboys can’t find the money to re-sign Spencer, they most certainly should not give the job straight to Butler or sign him for anything close to starter’s money.
There is hope on the horizon, though.
The 2013 draft class has a ton of potential at the outside linebacker position, which includes names like Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Jarvis Jones and Alex Okafor, among others.
Though both the team and I hope that there is a way to re-sign Spencer, I doubt there is a realistic one.
Mike Jenkins is another player who I’m sure Dallas would love to re-sign, but the price of a new contract for a former Pro Bowl cornerback will be too steep for the team.
The Cowboys obviously value what Jenkins brings to their roster, as they chose to keep him for one season rather than trade him for a draft pick when they could have (h/t Pro Football Talk).
The team obviously had plans of competing for a championship this season, which they can still accomplish despite a terrible 2-2 start.
With numerous injuries at the safety position, the Cowboys should be pleased with their decision. Jenkins has filled in at safety and given the defense much more flexibility in nickel and dime packages.
The problem in keeping him only really matters if Dallas wins a championship. If it does not, one has to imagine it would have taken the potential draft picks.
Dallas has invested a lot at the cornerback position in the last two seasons. They gave Brandon Carr $50 million this offseason. They traded their first two picks in the draft for the right to draft Morris Claiborne and signed nickel corner Orlando Scandrick to a new contract last summer.
All of this together will bring an end to Jenkins’ tenure in Dallas.
This decision should be fairly easy for Dallas, and it has nothing to do with money.
Felix Jones' career in Dallas can be characterized by two words: unrealized potential.
Though he has had bright moments (e.g., his wild-card performance against Philadelphia), Jones has never seized his opportunity in the Dallas backfield.
The 22nd overall pick in 2008 has been given ample time to prove that he can produce. Jones has continually failed to make an impact in the backfield or on special teams.
Jones was projected a fair amount of carries this season, but he has only registered three. The most noticeable moment of his season was his fumble on the opening kickoff in Seattle.
Fans have cried for the team to trade him. Unfortunately, there is not a team in the league that will give Dallas anything more than a seventh-round pick for the former Razorback—and that is being generous.
Any team remotely interested in Jones will more than likely wait until the end of the season to pursue him.
One thing is for sure, Jones’ time in Dallas should come to an end at the conclusion of the 2012 campaign.
This is another tricky situation for Dallas. If Ogletree explodes and has a Laurent Robinson-esque season, his price in free agency may be too high for the team to re-sign him, as happened when Robinson left for Jacksonville this offseason.
If he doesn’t have a similar season to Robinson’s 2011 performance, there will be much doubt as to whether the team will even want to re-sign him.
Though Ogletree is on pace to come close to Robinson’s statistics, there are just not enough footballs to go around.
Now, if the team suffers an injury at the receiver position, this will change, and Ogletree will get a chance to prove his worth. If the price is right, the team will consider re-signing Ogletree.
Another one-year contract seems to be in line for No. 85.
Expect the team to draft a receiver in the middle rounds of next year’s draft. Ideally, it will be one who has potential in the return game.
The potential draft pick and others already on the roster will challenge Ogletree for the third receiver spot even if the team decides to keep him around.