The Dallas Cowboys spent more money than they ever had in free agency last offseason, but fans should not expect a repeat performance. That spending from a season ago packed with a $5 million penalty for the 2010 uncapped year shenanigans will strap Big D in 2013.
With a tight budget in mind for owner Jerry Jones and Co., here is a realistic free-agent wish list for the Cowboys.
Peyton Hillis has not been particularly effective during his time as a Kansas City Chief, but that doesn't mean he'd be a bust in Dallas.
DeMarco Murray is the Cowboys' No. 1 back, but Hillis would provide a bruising and downhill change of pace to the former's style. While Murray has some power in his step, Hillis and his 250-pound frame would provide Dallas with a great goal-line and short-yardage running back.
It's time to call it quits on the Felix Jones experiment, and Hillis would be one of the better and cheaper replacements for No. 28.
The Cowboys gave Anthony Spencer one last chance to step up his game last offseason when they franchised the former first-round draft pick. The decision has paid off big time for both player and team.
Spencer has posted a career-high 10 sacks this season and has been a vital part of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Purdue product has not only taken double-teams off of teammate DeMarcus Ware this season but has provided Dallas with production in the process.
There is little else the Cowboys could have asked for from Spencer this season. Keeping him a member of the team for years to come is a top priority this offseason.
As the regular season has gone on, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree has seen his targets become less and less in the passing game. The veteran receiver saw 11 passes thrown to him in the season opener. He's had just one target in each of the last two games.
Dwayne Harris has taken over Ogletree's role, which means the latter will likely be shown the door this offseason. While Josh Cribbs is not really an improvement in the receiver department, at least he'd be a solid kick-return option.
Harris has also seen success in the return game this season. Still, Dallas might be lured to sign what should be a decently cheap returner to at least try out in training camp.
Cribbs has not been his typical self in the return game for Cleveland in quite some time and it wouldn't be shocking to see his current team let him go. If this were to happen, the Cowboys could grab themselves some cheap speed at the wideout and return positions.
Considering the poor play and hefty price tag for Doug Free at right tackle, it would not be shocking to see him cut from the Cowboys.
Free's contract will set Dallas back $10 million next season. Chances are high considering two straight down years for the current Cowboy to be shown the door. That leaves opportunity waiting for a player like Andre Smith.
The Cincinnati Bengals tackle has become a solid starter for his team, and that's more than Dallas can say with Free. It would be smart to focus on the draft to bring an heir to the starting role with the team, and Smith would be a fine Band-Aid until that player is ready to start.
Free has been so bad that doing a little bargain shopping for an offensive lineman and cutting losses with him would be the smart move for Dallas.
Glenn Dorsey may not have lived up to his No. 5 overall draft selection back in 2008, but his versatility would be great for the Cowboys.
When looking at the 2012 season especially, the Dallas defense can be decimated by injury in a matter of weeks. Dorsey's ability to play both defensive tackle and end would allow the Cowboys one more substitute in a unit that is not invincible by any means.
It's not as if Victor Butler hasn't proven to be an OK linebacker at the position, but if he were to get injured like Jay Ratliff has been this year, Dallas has no viable replacement.
The right defensive end position is one the Cowboys need to seriously address either through the draft or free agency in 2013. If the team elects to go with the free-agent route to fill this need, Dorsey is a perfect target.
The current Chiefs player has a chance of staying with the team past this season. Still, if these two do call it quits, Dallas could use a player like Dorsey to coach up and mold into the player he was meant to be originally.