Grading the Strength of Each Position on Cowboys Roster Heading into Free Agency
As the Cowboys scroll the free-agent market for possible players to fill empty slots, many hope that the team will be smart in how they approach the 2013 offseason.
Last year the Cowboys picked up former Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr for a sweet $50 million, a myriad of offensive linemen, a couple of linebackers and a number of undrafted players to help bolster their bench.
Because the Cowboys are $26 million over the cap this offseason, I'm sure they won't be as active this time around.
But just in case Jerry Jones decides to break out the checkbook for a few players who may help them in a run to the Super Bowl, I have a few suggestions.
Instead of giving a list of players Dallas should sign, let's give a positional breakdown of how strong the Cowboys are in each area.
For example, the Cowboys will not be in the market for a quarterback. So when looking at FAs to sign, we will give the quarterback position the grade of "A" because there is no need for a replacement.
Get it? Great! Let's get to it.
Quarterbacks: A (No Need FA Assistance Needed)
Cowboys fans in denial about Tony Romo should wake up and smell the Texas coffee. He's not going anywhere and will remain a Cowboy so long that Jerry Jones wants him there.
Dallas has a more than serviceable backup in Kyle Orton just in case Romo goes down with an injury, so the quarterback position is set.
If anything, the Cowboys should look toward the draft for Romo's future successor. A free agent is not needed here.
Running Backs: C (Bargain FA Possible)
I’m of the belief that the Cowboys will draft a running back to fill in for a soon-to-be departed Felix Jones.
Starter DeMarco Murray has the job sewn for the time being, but if he can’t stay healthy, the Cowboys will soon look somewhere else for his replacement.
In the interim of finding out if Murray will last, the Cowboys have to find a worthy reserve. That player may be on the free-agent market, but the team will likely find him on a draft board instead of a waiver wire.
Wide Receivers: A (No Need FA Assistance Needed)
Kevin Ogletree is a free agent, and the Cowboys may bring him back if they aren't sure of their stability at the position.
Ogletree has had opportunities to prove himself, and he has yet to do so.
The Cowboys have a young and talented core group of young receivers who deserve their chance to show, just as Ogletree did.
Instead of finding a free agent, I believe the Cowboys will stick with the players on the roster or the practice squad to fill that void.
Tight Ends: A (No Need FA Assistance Needed)
John Phillips is a free agent, but I think it's unlikely that he’ll return. He’s a decent tight end and played well enough while in Dallas.
Instead of bringing him back, the Cowboys should turn their attention toward the young talent of rookie tight end James Hanna.
Hanna, in my thoughts, is the heir to the Jason Witten throne. He still has a long way to go before he reaches that status, but he has the skills, the speed and the ability to ascend in that direction.
Offensive Line: C (Bargain FA Possible)
The Cowboys may very well turn to a free agent to fill their needs on the offensive line. They have issues at guard and center, and if they are unable to find that player via the draft, they will likely turn to free agency.
Dallas needs a guard to protect the middle for when an assault is waiting for Tony Romo, and the team lacks depth across the board up front.
I say bargain here because the Cowboys may draft at least two offensive linemen.
If they pick just one up, like UNC guard Jonathan Cooper, look for the Cowboys to turn to free agency to plug the hole.
Defensive Line: C (Bargain FA Possible)
The Cowboys can draft a defensive or offensive lineman in the first and second rounds, but they may still need help at defensive end and for depth purposes.
Due to the money issues, the Cowboys may stay away from picking up a player just to fill a need. But if Kiffin sees a player who fits his scheme, it wouldn't surprise me if they take the free-agent route.
Linebackers: C (Bargain FA Possible)
Injuries destroyed the Cowboys defense last season—just ask former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Outside of that, the Cowboys linebackers are in good shape when they can get on the field.
Sean Lee and Bruce Carter should be back and fully healthy, and if Anthony Spencer returns with Victor Butler, Dallas will have the strongest group of linebackers in the NFC East.
Lee is scheduled to play “Sam linebacker” and Carter “Will linebacker,” which will give them both a chance to have more of an impact on the game.
If anything, the Cowboys may want to sign another Sam for protection purposes just in case Lee or Carter goes down.
Defensive Backfield: C (Bargain FA Possible)
With Mike Jenkins possibly on the way out and a bare cupboard, the Cowboys should at least be on the look out for a free agent or two.
Drafting another corner for depth would start to fill the empty cabinets and give the Cowboys a younger crop of corners to build upon.
If they choose to go the free-agent route for stop gap players, this may just prove that Jones isn't truly committed to building a future contender.
Special Teams: A (No Need FA Assistance Needed)
Dan Bailey has worked out well for the Cowboys, and punter Chris Jones will return. So the dark days of the Brian Moorman era will end soon.
I believe kicking and punting are in good hands, and the return and kick team aren't bad either.
Dallas may have a bona fide punt return man in Dwayne Harris, and if he's unable to go, the electrifying Dez Bryant is always available.
The Cowboys did lose former special teams coach Joe DeCamillis to the Bears after he spent four years in Dallas, but there should be no recognizable difference in how the balls are kicked or punted.
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