Ranking the Biggest Free Agency Priorities for Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys finished just short of the playoffs for the second straight season in 2012 and are in need of some improvement at key positions. Dallas is overhauling the defense to a 4-3 with the hire of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and still have trouble on the front lines on both sides of the ball.
With the Cowboys hurting salary cap-wise, much of the outside help will likely be obtained via the draft, but let's look at some of the team's free agency positions of need.
The Cowboys committed a new contract to free safety Gerald Sensabaugh just last year and saw midseason pickup Charlie Peprah perform well.
Peprah came in to Big D when the defense began getting snakebitten with injuries last season and would likely be a cap-friendly signing for the team. Strong safety is in need of some help as well with Danny McCray not overly impressing after Barry Church went down with a season-ending injury.
Church and McCray could very well still be the Cowboys' two options at the position come this September, but it wouldn't be shocking to see them sign a veteran either. A name that fans are probably salivating over is recently released Charles Woodson.
The former Packer isn't exactly looking for a long-term contract at age 36, and that could put him in Dallas' limited price range. There are going to be more than a few teams trying to court the future Hall of Famer, but he's a big name, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones does love him some big names.
Whether the Cowboys can bring back Anthony Spencer given their money limitations has yet to be seen, but that doesn't change the need to bring in an outside linebacker.
After a Pro Bowl season, Spencer could easily cash in this free agency season and go to a team that has more money to spend. If this scenario plays out, the Cowboys will be in need of a player to replace Spencer at OLB .
Regardless of whether Dallas will be successful at re-signing No. 93 or not, the position still remains a priority for the team to address. Spencer will be pursued by the Cowboys, and if talks don't lead to a new contract, Dallas needs to find a replacement for him.
Just like with Anthony Spencer, Jerry Jones and company need to decide if they want to continue signing paychecks for Felix Jones, considering the former first-round draft pick recorded his worst statistical season in the NFL.
Pair that with a history of injuries in his career and this might be the year Jones is shown the door at Valley Ranch.
If the Cowboys are looking for an option outside of Jones for the No. 2 running back on the depth chart, names like Rashard Mendenhall and Danny Woodhead come to mind.
Mendenhall is returning from an ACL injury, but he's an experienced rusher who could be a nice change of pace from DeMarco Murray. Woodhead has been nothing but change of pace during his NFL career and often provided a nice little spark for the Patriots during his time with the team.
Unlike safety or outside linebacker, where Dallas could turn to the draft instead of free agency, running back is probably a position the team would heavily prefer to fill before the draft. A veteran presence behind him would provide Murray stability and someone to learn from in his third NFL season.
With Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2, 4-3 defense being inserted into the Cowboys playbook as we speak, some changes need to be made up front.
Defensive tackle Jay Ratliff is going to need some help on the interior line, pending that Ratliff is still on the roster after his issues with Jerry Jones. Dallas would be wise to keep Ratliff despite his problems and pair him with a known 4-3 force on the inside like Richard Seymour.
The former Oakland Raider is 33 years old and is likely looking to go back to the winning ways he enjoyed during his Super Bowl runs with New England. Seymour has proved to be a reliable and savvy defensive tackle since coming into the league in 2001 and recorded six sacks for the Raiders back in 2011.
Seymour or no Seymour, Dallas needs to find some defensive linemen who are known for their 4-3 style of play on the free-agent market this year.
Does that picture of Doug Free whiffing on his assignment look familiar, 'Boys fans? It should.
Since getting his big payday back after the 2010 season, Free has been an absolute disaster up front of the Cowboys. Regardless of who he's lined up against the past few years, it's looked like Free has been overwhelmed by pretty much every opponent.
If you don't believe my assessment, check out what Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller had to say when evaluating No. 68:
The fact that he's underwhelmed for the better part of two seasons paired with a need to save money should mean the end of Free's time wearing the star on his helmet. That means the Cowboys need to find someone to fill his starting position at either right or left tackle.
Considering Tyron Smith's versatility, the team could keep him at left tackle but would be better served to move him back to his native right spot. This would mean Dallas is in need of someone to fill the left side. It's time to free Doug Free of his Cowboys contract and find a capable veteran lineman to plug in.