A successful season isn’t masking the questions surrounding the Cowboys.
Despite all the needs this team has to fill, some of the biggest questions surrounding the franchise concern what moves they’re going to make to create some cap room.
Sometimes it’s more than big names, big players and potential. Sometimes football is a business and it’s treated as such.
Some players just don’t fit where this team is going. Some players need a change of scenery.
With all the questions that loom, one thing remains certain: There will be big changes this off season.
Here are the players I think won’t be back for 2013.
What an awful investment; a complete and utter waste of money.
Doug Free is making a ton of money to stink up the league. He has 13 penalties and has been beaten by almost every player who lines up across from him.
Now the Cowboys have started rotating Free with Jermey Parnell. I imagine this is their nice way of saying, "You suck, Doug."
Now the Cowboys have a decision to make concerning the future of Free. Free’s release could save the Cowboys about $7 million but carry some penalty money over to 2014. The alternative is that you can continue to pay him his outrageous salary to let pass rushers dominate Tony Romo.
Free is showing no signs of getting better or even competing against Parnell.
I would be shocked if Free returned to the team next year.
Color me stupid. I was among the many that were clamoring at the idea of Dan Connor lining up next to Sean Lee and reliving the Penn State glory days.
I was wrong.
Connor hasn’t been bad, but hasn’t been the player he was known to be. His strengths have always been in play recognition and pursuit, and while he’s been mediocre, he hasn’t been worth his contract.
Connor just isn’t athletic enough to compete on this team. Especially not with players like Ernie Sims and Alex Albright making their presence known. Connor is a liability in coverage and isn’t consistent enough against the run.
In 2013, Connor makes just over $4 million, which is a steep price for a back up linebacker who isn’t likely to see the field much when Bruce Carter and Sean Lee return.
Connor is still a good football player but just not for this scheme. He’ll have a new home in 2013.
Really, is anyone still a big Felix fan?
Felix Jones has had his moments this season relieving DeMarco Murray. He has also shown us how inconsistent he can be. Felix has a season average of 3.5 yards per carry. That average by no means is bad. However, in his five games in which he had over 10 carries, he hasn’t eclipsed 100 yards once.
This has been typical of Felix. He can’t handle heavy workloads and seems to get injured in every game. Not reassuring of a player who was expected to be a key cog in an explosive offense.
The problem here is that Felix will command money that the Cowboys just don’t have. Even if he wants a smaller deal, the Cowboys can’t afford to be putting money into the running back position when they have so many holes elsewhere.
Big name, small production in 2012. Sometimes it’s just that easy.
Ratliff is getting older, and his body is wearing down. He is an undersized nose tackle that has been double-teamed for years.
The bottom line is that he just isn’t the same player.
In 2013, Ratliff is set to make $7 million. That salary isn’t one that I’m comfortable paying for a guy whose production is unknown and health is questionable.
Look. I love Ratliff, and I know some of you are going to be mad at this assessment. The Cowboys are now in the business of saving money and getting younger. There happens to be some great prospects in this draft that would help them do both.
Releasing Ratliff will be an unpopular move but a necessary one.
Now Miles Austin presents a very interesting case. There is no doubt that Austin is still a productive receiver in this league despite being injury-prone. With an $8 million price tag and the emergence of Dez Bryant as a true number one receiver, does Austin become expendable?
Just think about it.
Austin is still a very capable wide receiver who has a very decent trade value. He could pull the Cowboys an additional second or third-round pick and save them a ton of cap money.
It’s legitimate to be concerned about a move like this.
The Cowboys aren’t exactly drowning in depth at wide receiver, and unless you like the promise of Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley, this move is pointless.
I happen to like Dwayne Harris a ton and think he has the ability to be a solid wide receiver in this league. Another option would be getting a free agent wide receiver to fill the void at an affordable price.
Some big name free agents are Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings and Wes Welker. Some role players could be Brandon Gibson or Jerome Simpson. There are also a few draft prospects who could be available.
I don’t think Austin moves unless the right deal comes along. However, it would be smart for the Cowboys to at least listen to teams who might be interested.
Draft picks talk in this league, and the Cowboys could use more of them.