The Definitive Blueprint to the Dallas Cowboys Perfect Offseason
Jay-z crafted one of the greatest hip-hop albums in the last 20 years with "Blueprint." It was full of soul, rhythm, sharp lyrics and his flow was timeless. It is considered a classic rap album because of the impact it had on the culture, as well as where it took hip-hop musically.
The Cowboys may need to take a listen from that album to get a good feel on where to start in remaking their team.
Sunday night, the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins 28-18, sending them home for the summer, and catapulting the Redskins into the playoffs.
Once the final seconds ticked off the clock, questions started about the future of some coaches and players.
Will team owner Jerry Jones force head coach Jason Garrett to give up the offensive play-calling to a real offensive coordinator? Is defensive coordinator Rob Ryan on the hot seat? Has Jones finally had his fill of Tony Romo's mistakes?
Even if the answers to all of those questions are "no," the Cowboys have to do something different in the offseason if they want a shot at the playoffs next year.
Between Romo's costly interceptions, the play off the offensive line, and injuries, the Cowboys can't afford another 8-8 finish to satisfy the fan base, let alone the owner.
So, as Dallas prepares to head into another offseason to think about lost opportunities and no playoffs, I'll take an early look at what the Cowboys should do in the offseason to get better.
Re-Sign Tony Romo to Long-Term Extension
Now, before some of you go off on the deep end, I do not think the Cowboys should get rid of Romo. But, he is 32 years old and headed toward the end of his career.
He clearly gives the Cowboys the best chance to win, and that will continue in 2013.
The Cowboys cannot wait until Romo's skills fall off a cliff to determine who will succeed him. In fact, they may be faced with that reality sooner rather than later.
The solution to this future problem isn't finding a veteran as a stop gap until the right free agent or rookie comes along. Dallas has to get out in front of this problem now, and it may start this summer.
Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Jones isn't expected to be drafted on the first day, which is a pretty shocking. Jones is a former Heisman Trophy candidate with a lot of touchdowns and plenty of yards to go with them.
But, he can be erratic and can come up small in big games. Simply put, he may be a project for some teams.
Since most in the NFL now believe Jones isn't NFL-ready, having him sit on the bench for a couple of seasons to watch may not be a bad idea.
Now, do I actually believe the Cowboys will draft Jones? No. Do I think they should seriously look at Jones and other available quarters in the draft next April? Absolutely.
Evaluate Right Tackle Doug Free
Free was so bad toward the end of the season that Garrett had him rotate with tackle Jermey Parnell.
Free has to be a little nervous about his status with the Cowboys. Dallas didn’t play well at all on Sunday against the Redskins and the offensive line couldn’t stop leaking long enough to give Romo time to make a good throw or decision.
If Jones truly feels that the team is better off without Free, there is no reason to believe that he will not release him.
In the end, should the Cowboys try Free for one more season, work on his technique, and live with the results? I say no.
Release Kevin Ogletree
It's been fun watching Ogletree over time. He has been explosive at times and enigmatic.
Young receiver Dwayne Harris seems to have his eyes on Ogletree's job. Romo can count on Harris more than he can Ogletree, and for the most part, Harris runs his routes correctly.
His speed may not be top notch, but Harris knows how to make plays and does so fairly often.
Dallas has Harris and another young receiver in Cole Beasley fully capable of either sharing the slot or taking it over by themselves in 2013.
In addition to Harris and Beasley, Dallas drafted Danny Coale last year but ended up releasing him because he couldn't stay healthy. They may take another look at him as well.
I fully expect the Cowboys to release Ogletree in the offseason.
Sound simple, doesn't it? Injuries put the Cowboys lack of reserves on front street.
To injuries, they lost linebackers Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, centers Phil Costa and Kevin Kowalski, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, safety Barry Church, receiver Miles Austin, nose tackle Jay Ratliff, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and many others who were lost for large parts of the season but returned.
To the Cowboys' credit, they were able to glue together a few wins with guys signed off the street. Ryan did an exceptional job because he was forced to simplify his play-calling because they were literally adding a new defensive player each week.
The Cowboys aren't really in a position to sign as many free agents as they did last year due to money issues, but they can restock through the draft getting rid of contracts that are no longer viable.
Assess Free-Agent Class
Dallas will have to make some tough decisions this offseason. They have a number of players who will be unrestricted free agents, and Jones will have to decide if he wants to keep them around.
Felix Jones, RB
I don’t believe that Jones will be back in Dallas in 2013 because of Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner. He’s an UFA, or unrestricted free agent, and other teams will sniff around his home that can offer more than Dallas can this offseason.
Jones played well while in Dallas, but he was often injured and never turned out to be the type of runner many expected.
Phil Costa, C
Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau played center while Costa, Kowalski and Ryan Cook were all out. He didn’t screw the job up and did pretty well.
If the Cowboys move him over to center full time, then Costa becomes expendable.
They were already shaky on bringing Costa back after his 2011 campaign; his injuries in 2012 may make it easier to let him walk.
Victor Butler, LB
What do the Cowboys do with linebacker Victor Butler? He was due to become the next star linebacker for the Cowboys, maybe taking over for Anthony Spencer, but he never showed up and showed out.
For 2012, Butler started two games, recorded a career-high 20 tackles and got three sacks. Not terrible numbers for a reserve but that three sack number was supposed to be multiplied.
He’s a UFA just like Jones, and I’m not really sure where Dallas will go with him this off-season.
Anthony Spencer, LB
I started not to list him because it’s pretty simple math to know where Dallas is headed with Spencer.
He needed to have a big season to earn the long-term contract he so desperately wants, and he did just that.
Spencer recorded a career high in sacks and tackles, earning high praise from Garrett and All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
There is no guarantee that Spencer and the team will come to terms on a multi-year deal, and if they cannot, expect Spencer to be franchised again.
For a complete list of Cowboys UFA, click here.
Sign an Actual Offensive Coordinator
Jason Garrett isn't the team's official offensive coordinator, that job belongs to offensive line coach Bill Callahan. But Garrett still calls the plays and runs the offense.
As much of a genius whom Garrett can be at times when pulling the play-calling trigger, it's time that he gives those duties to someone else.
Earlier in the season, Garrett was criticized for calling two straight fade routes to Dez Bryant, in the end zone, on the goal line. Why try those cute plays when Dallas had Murray or Jones in the backfield?
Because the Cowboys have missed the playoffs twice under Garrett while he has been the full-time head coach, Dallas doesn't have anything to lose by giving the play-calling reins to another coach.
I do not expect Jones to make such a move, but to shake things up and give the Cowboys offense a different look and feel, it is time to move Garrett aside from being the team's offensive guru.