The 'Cardiac Cowboys' struggled through only the sixth game of the year, but it is never too early to start thinking about the free-agent market for the 2013 Dallas Cowboys. At 3-3, the Cowboys are still in the mix for making a run at the playoffs. A division showdown this upcoming Sunday will help determine exactly where these Dallas Cowboys are headed. Regardless of Super Bowl or bust, the free agency wish list will be the same.
Jason Garrett, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, has a philosophy when it comes to making offseason acquisitions for the team. Draft as purely as possible. Simply put, Garrett wants to make sure that all glaring holes are filled during free agency. When the Cowboys are on the clock, they draft the best player available rather than get hamstrung looking at a player with a lesser grade, who fills a position of need.
In 2013, the Cowboys will lose some key players. The most notable names that will be departing are Anthony Spencer, Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins.
Keeping Spencer will be the key of the offseason—at the right price. This year, Spencer made almost nine million dollars with his franchise tag. We have seen the Cowboys defense without Spencer, and it wasn't pretty. Although it wasn't the worst in the league, it wasn't pretty. Spencer also had what is arguably a game-saving sack in the fourth quarter this past week at Carolina.
Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will have to decide whether 2012 fourth-round draft pick Kyle Wilbur will be ready for full-time duty opposite DeMarcus Ware (Victor Butler and Alex Albright are jacks of many trades, but masters of none). Around the NFL, Spencer is not as good as Mario Williams, Clay Matthews, Von Miller and Aldon Smith, but he is the "best of the rest" meaning you won't find another outside linebacker who is better than Anthony Spencer.
With Jerry Jones finally realizing that Felix Jones isn't what his alma mater showcased, there is a large market for a replacement. One name that comes to mind that Jason Garrett and Tony Romo both would love as an offensive weapon is New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead. His versatility to run with the ball as well as catch passes both out of the slot and out of the backfield would give Garrett another dimension of creativity.
Phillip Tanner has proven that he is a tough backup for whom the lights don't shine too brightly. Even with DeMarco Murray's constant health issues, Phillip Tanner can shoulder the load and provide tough running both in between the tackles and off the edge with a decent burst. Woodhead would be the perfect change-of-pace back or agility mismatch on linebackers.
Mike Jenkins is a coin flip decision on whether or not he will continue to play with the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones is famous for using his smoke and mirrors, and it's hard to be competitive in the NFL with spending the amount that the Cowboys will be spending on the secondary. If Jenkins is willing to be part of the Cowboys team at a competitive and reasonable price, then I believe that he will return.
The Cowboys are locked at the cornerback position for the next four years with starters Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Investing more could be worth it, especially with the Cowboys' failed attempts at bringing in a quality safety. If least-impressive rookie Matt Johnson or Danny McCray are able to elevate their level of play, then it could mean the end of Mike Jenkins in a Cowboys uniform.
Don't expect any free-agent offensive linemen, as the Cowboys are likely to spend some high draft picks at shoring up the interior of the offensive line.
The Cowboys will have five million dollars less in cap space to play with because of league-imposed penalties due to Miles Austin's contract being so front-loaded. The wish list is both long and expensive, but look for the Cowboys to take a methodical approach at continuing to churn the roster.