This season has either been viewed as a very successful one or a dreadfully disappointing one. The Cowboys have made it into contention, realistically, are still rebuilding.
Let the competitive rebuilding continue.
Admit it or not, the Cowboys have done a nice job acquiring pieces for the future while competing in the present. Sure, they haven’t had that deep playoff run that we have all hoped for. But hey, maybe they’re getting close!
The 2013 NFL offseason offers some great obstacles and very important decisions. The franchise is in a critical point in planning for the future. It’s important that the Cowboys make all the right moves to solidify them as a franchise that will be in contention for the long-term
Let’s take a look at the biggest decisions that need to be made.
I’ve made this argument plenty of times before, but hopefully one more time won’t hurt.
I strongly believe that Jason Garrett is a quality head coach that is consistently burdened with trying to run an offense that once paved his way to a head coaching position. Garrett needs to be able to focus on the team as a whole and not spending all his time with the offense.
Queue Norv Turner.
Turner is a prolific offensive mastermind that will likely have his pick of OC positions. Expect Jerry Jones to lobby hard to get him. Turner’s career really skyrocketed with his time in Dallas in the 90’s. Now searching for a rebound gig that will send him back into HC jobs, he would be given the opportunity to work with one of the NFL’s best offenses.
The combination of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin should be too much for Norv to turn down.
This is a win-win for Turner. He gets to go back to his very successful roots while still being in a high spotlight franchise that will be in contention. Two or three years later, Norv will be back in the HC world if he so chooses.
The Cowboys and Turner will be better because of this move.
One of the Cowboys biggest problems is cap space. Well, that and plaguing injuries that leave your team desolate and forced to rely on no-name street free agents.
Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Players like Jay Ratliff, Kevin Ogletree and Felix Jones are players that can’t be heavily relied upon because of injury history and lackluster play. Yes, Ratliff has been productive but is worn down and beaten up and merely just occupying cap space at this point.
Other players such as Doug Free, Kenyon Coleman and Dan Connor also have high salaries and offer very little value to the Cowboys.
The key here is that the Cowboys need to free up cap space and rid themselves of low-productivity guys. I’ve got to be honest; I don’t feel that I have to be loyal to any of these players. I love Jay Ratliff the most out of this bunch, but he’s of no use to the Cowboys at this point in his career.
The Cowboys will have some tough decisions to make but don’t be surprised to see a lot of these guys gone before the 2013 season.
You can say what you’d like about Spencer and his play during his contract year. I have my own adjective for it: stellar.
If the Cowboys do one thing this offseason, signing Spencer has to be it.
This issue here becomes the cap space the Cowboys have. A lot of money would go to Spencer in a long term deal and he’ll have to decide if he’s willing to take less to stay. If the cap allows it, Spencer is the best free agent on the market.
Spencer has 80 tackles, 10 sacks and two forced fumbles in what has been his best season of his career. At 28, he is continuing to get better and is a tremendous leader to a defense that promises to get younger.
It’s hard to measure the impact that Spencer has because we so often compare him to DeMarcus Ware. One thing we have to realize is that Spencer is a completely different player. Spencer’s specialty is playing the run and he is much more of a balanced outside linebacker. When you compare him to other similar linebackers he’s among the league’s best.
Spencer helps make the defense tough. If the Cowboys want to continue to improve, they have to get Spencer on a long-term deal that will solidify his spot for the future.
So this is where everything gets tricky. The Cowboys' top target should be Chance Warmack, but I believe they may have played themselves out of his likely draft position.
So the tough decision becomes: Should the Cowboys trade their pick?
Here is a list of the Cowboys needs in order of priority: OG, DT, S, DE, OT, RB
With most of the top prospects gone at the particular needs of the Cowboys, they could look to trade down with a team like Denver. Denver would trade (according to the NFL Draft Pick Value Chart) 30th overall and their second for the Cowboys’ 19th overall (picks are obviously not set at this point).
If the Cowboys completed a trade like this they could walk out with an early-draft looking like this:
First Round: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
Second Round: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia (value is falling because of Sheldon Richardson and Jesse Williams)
Second Round: Eric Reid, S, LSU or T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Third Round: Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
Fourth Round: Johnathan Franklin RB, UCLA
That would be a good hull for a Cowboys team that could use some serious upgrades. If the Cowboys are smart with their picks they could nab some good players who are falling because of lack of need at the position. In this case Reid, Jones and Jenkins are all first-round players who fall because of depth at their position.
Smart drafting will breed future success.
As of right now, with no pending moves, the Cowboys are looking to be about $20 million over the cap. They’ll have the option of reworking some deals, releasing some players and looking at trades to help ease that. Don't be surprised if Miles Austin gets moved.
Jerry Jones has done some incredible things with the cap in the past, but he’ll have to get extra creative here.
Somehow, someway the Cowboys have to figure out how to bring in, at the very least, an offensive tackle with starting ability. Andre Smith seems to be the least expensive and best option the Cowboys can look at. However, there are a bevy of options.
Additionally, the Cowboys might need to look at another wide receiver if they do send Miles Austin to a new team.
The operative word here is “savvy.”
The Cowboys need to be savvy with their spending. Big name free agents are always popular, but don’t always pan out. You don’t have to sign everyone. It’s important that the Cowboys make in solid impact to this team as cheaply as possible.
Quality over quantity is the idea here. These decisions are far beyond my comprehension, but I do know that the front office has put themselves in a bad situation through the working of past deals. It’s important they don’t spend in a way that will cripple them in the future.
This last point you are bound to either love or hate. Most everyone has an opinion on Romo and Garrett but you know what they say about opinions…
The truth here is that you’re looking at two very important cogs in your team.
Garrett is a solid coach who is still learning, but is also working diligently at changing the culture of this team. Garrett is finally starting to reach his players and they are starting to buy into him. If Jerry Jones is really committed to Garrett, he’ll stop the rumors now and offer him an extension that would secure his future as the Cowboys head coach.
It really wouldn’t be a bad move. Garrett is a smart head coach who has a very high football I.Q. and understands what it takes to win in this league. Not every head coach is a hit at first. Garrett’s best days are in front of him and Jones can secure that with a deserving extension.
On the other side of the coin is Tony Romo. Romo is everyone’s favorite blame victim.
While we’ve been blaming Tony Romo for everything under the sun, he has been posting tremendous career numbers and shattering Cowboys records as if it’s going out of style.
The benefit here is that extending Romo would greatly lower the Cowboys cap number and you can maintain a quarterback who has been phenomenal the past two seasons.
Quarterbacks are tough to come by, so even if you get a “quarterback of the future,” Romo still has tons of value for this franchise. A veteran leader—who has been incredibly successful in this league and will continue to do so—is invaluable to a young quarterback learning the ins and outs of the NFL game.
Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter this is a decision that has to be made.