I don’t know what it will take for Jerry Jones to realize that the Dallas Cowboys are stuck on an endless loop of mediocrity.
That may be a harsh statement, but one that is certainly true.
In all reality, the Cowboys aren’t far from relevance in this league. They have some really solid pieces in place, but they need to make moves to sustain competitiveness throughout the foreseeable future.
I recognize that the Cowboys are in a bad position in relation to cap space, but I don’t think this offseason is a wash. Through a string of smart football moves, the Cowboys could be rebuilt in one short offseason.
Here is my blueprint to make that happen.
Anthony Spencer was an outcast this offseason. He received a franchise tender and was declared all but gone after this season.
2012 has been a solid season for Spencer who has proven his worth. So far, he has totaled 57 tackles, two forced fumbles and seven sacks. Not bad for a player who was considered by Cowboys fans to be insufficient opposite DeMarcus Ware. Spencer has proven he is an asset in the run defense and is competent as a pass-rusher.
This season has only solidified that Spencer is worth top dollar and that he will command his worth on the market.
Assuming he isn’t franchised, a cheaper option the Cowboys might consider is Connor Barwin.
Barwin has developed into a very good pass-rushing outside linebacker. He would fit what Rob Ryan likes to do with his outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme. Barwin would be a relatively inexpensive player who has good upside and is young enough to be a staple in the defense for the foreseeable future.
Barwin has been limited this season in snaps, but his talent is undeniable. He had 11.5 sacks in 2011 but only three this season.
No matter what the Cowboys decide to do, they have to solidify this position in free agency because the draft’s top options will be gone quickly. I think Barwin is the best choice because of the value when measuring dollar to potential.
If this step in my offseason plan has you annoyed or confused, you should probably re-evaluate your status as a Cowboys fan.
Doug Free is atrocious. I’ve lost count of his mistakes at this point in the season and he surely isn’t worth the awful contract he was given.
Tyron Smith is still a young, promising prospect that has All-Pro potential. Still, I think he has the potential to thrive at any tackle position but is best suited for the right side. In his rookie campaign he was among the leagues best right tackles.
The point is that, while Dallas has one good player, it has another terrible one. There are young options available—expensive, but young—who could make a huge impact for this team.
Jake Long and Ryan Clady are the big names that fans will want because of their age and skill set. Both players, along with Jermon Bushrod, would likely push Smith to the right side.
Sebastian Vollmer is a very good tackle who has played both sides. He flourishes at right tackle and would allow Smith to continue growing as a blindside blocker. Vollmer would be the least expensive of the four and would be an extreme upgrade.
Either way, there are, at least, four franchise-caliber tackles. I have to believe Clady will be re-signed in Denver, but the other three seem destined for free agency. The Cowboys have to put money into and emphasis on this position on the market.
For name-value at the defensive end position, Cliff Avril seems to be the most intriguing option on the market. However, Michael Johnson will offer a less expensive option—one who has produced better and is still quite young.
Johnson’s biggest strength is his pass-rushing ability. At 6'7" and 270 lbs., Johnson has great size for a speed-rusher and could be a dynamic option for a Cowboys line that has lacked consistency and depth.
Defensive line is one of the deepest positions in the draft this season, and a player like Johnson would be a nice addition while the Cowboys groom a young defensive lineman. Johnson has eight sacks this season and seems to constantly improve his numbers with opportunities.
This move is a no-brainer.
There a few prospects the Cowboys have to consider in the draft; however, they need to rely on their big boards and take the best players available to them.
If the Cowboys are serious about getting better for the future, they need to amass the best players around. Whether those players are of positions of strength doesn’t matter. Just draft good players.
Simple enough right?
The draft is kind of my thing. I love this part of the season and if I were to tell you guys to watch out for some particular prospects this is who I think the Cowboys should keep an eye on:
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida St.: Werner is likely the best all-around defensive end in the draft.
Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina: Decent size, excellent athleticism.
Eric Reid, S, LSU: Best center fielder in college football.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Can Miles Austin stay healthy enough not to consider this?
John Jenkins, DT, Georgia: If the Cowboys are committed to the 3-4, Jenkins is a perfect fit.
These are just a few first-round prospects, but the Cowboys have to make the draft count. The only position I think that needs to be targeted is a future quarterback between Rounds 2 and 4 if great value is there.
Jerry Jones has a history of valuing players wrong. He needs to go away from need or “potential” value and draft players that they feel comfortable with as long-term assets regardless of immediate fit.
Look, I don’t have any idea what the Cowboys are going to do with Jason Garrett. I honestly think it might be a little too soon to cut him loose.
That being said, the Cowboys need to at least entertain the idea of making staff upgrades.
Whether Jones hosts Sean Payton, John Gruden or Mike Holmgren as potential coaches, or brings in guys who would consider filling a personnel consultant role, it is clear that changes need to be made.
It’s time that Cowboys ownership stops making decisions that are best for them as individuals and start focusing on smart decisions that are for the betterment of the football team.
Then and only then will this team be successful, with or without Garrett.