Picking 1 Free Agent to Fill Each of the Dallas Cowboys' Holes
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Free agency has begun at a fast and furious pace. Money is being tossed around, players are capitalizing on huge opportunities for their careers and franchises are taking their first steps of the 2013 season towards improvement.
So where do the Cowboys stand among the 31 other franchises? Somewhere between salary cap hell and looking for bargain basement discounts. Not a great place to be considering they are coming off of consecutive 8-8 seasons, but there is still room for optimism if Jerry Jones can maneuver efficiently.
Regardless of how much cap space becomes available, it doesn't look like it will be too plentiful. Unfortunately, there are several top heavy contracts that the Cowboys have to manage, and spending the same way they did in 2012 just isn't a reality.
But that doesn't mean that the Cowboys can't fill their needs in some sort of capacity. In fact, they will need to fill some of those needs to set up their draft properly. Currently with only six draft picks and a lot of holes to fill, it's time to go shopping.
Let's take a look at some free agents who can accommodate the Cowboys' shopping needs.
Peyton Hillis, RB
USA TODAY Sports
This move makes sense on many levels. First, Hillis has ties to new Cowboys running backs coach Gary Brown from their Cleveland days. Most importantly, Hillis is only 27 years old and doesn't have a lot of tread on his tires from the last few seasons.
With that being said, I can't see Hillis having too much leverage to justify a big payday from any team, and that makes this move very appealing. Should DeMarco Murray succumb to injury, Hillis could easily slide right into the featured role with a younger back serving as the No. 3 running back.
He has a powerful, downhill style of running that would fit in well to this offense. Playing in the NFC East usually comes down to a game of inches, and getting the tough yards could mean the difference in some of those games.
The Cowboys are familiar with this scenario the last two years.
Failure to land Hillis would turn the Cowboys' attention to players like Mike Goodson, Bernard Scott and, possibly for the right price, Beanie Wells.
Mike Patterson, DT
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
At 6'1" and 300 pounds, Patterson might be an interesting fit in Dallas, especially with the interior of the defensive line being in some state of flux. The Cowboys won't be able to rely on Josh Brent this season, and Jay Ratliff may face some type of discipline by the league as well.
The Cowboys need to get strong in the middle of the line while not being able to target top-tier free agents. So with middle-tier free agents being the target both in the talent and financial department, the Cowboys have to make the most of the situation.
Patterson is 29 years old, so signing him to a short-term, cap friendly deal would make the most sense. If you look at his career with the Eagles, he was productive when healthy, but he fought the injury bug as well.
Patterson has compiled 338 tackles, 17 sacks and eight forced fumbles during his career, and for what the Cowboys are able to do in free agency, this is not a bad option.
Daryl Smith, LB
Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Smith would be a good 4-3 linebacker that would fit Monte Kiffin's system well and provide solid veteran depth to the Cowboys' roster. He's coming off a season in which he played in only two games, but in the previous eight, he's only missed a total of four games.
Smith has amassed 679 tackles, 21.5 sacks and six interceptions. With the release of Dan Connor and overall linebacker depth a little thin, the 31-year-old Smith could easily be a two year stop-gap solution that some of the younger players could learn from.
When the pickings are slim and resources aren't available, players like Smith and possibly the over-achieving Chase Blackburn become valuable commodities. It comes with the pitfalls of a messy cap situation.
Louis Delmas, S
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Delmas, a former second-round pick, is a 25-year-old free safety that could be an ideal player to bring in on a one-year deal with the potential for a future deal. It's a risky strategy, because his youth may tempt another team to sign him to a bigger deal right now.
There are some other veteran safeties out there such as Michael Huff and Chris Crocker, but Delmas is much more intriguing. When you look at his games played since entering the league, the immediate concern is propensity for injury.
Since entering the league, he's played in 16, 15, 11 and eight games. But at 5'9" and 202 pounds, it's easy to see a player with his best football ahead of him and the need for a change of scenery. He remains a player to keep an eye on, but it would, like the rest of the Cowboys' targets, depend on money at this point.
Eric Winston, OL
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Winston, who was recently cut by the Chiefs, is a physically intriguing veteran. At 6'7" and 302 pounds, he has the ability to play both guard and tackle for the Cowboys. This would be ideal in terms of depth, flexibility and the ability to incorporate another veteran into the mix for Bill Callahan.
Winston has been a rock of consistency and has started every game for the past six seasons. As a native of Texas, maybe it's time to land in Dallas. Like any other potential move, this would have to come at the expense of an existing player on the Cowboys' roster or from more restructuring.
But adding a veteran offensive lineman is something the Cowboys need to explore regardless of their cap situation. Other players like Matt Slauson and Brandyn Dombrowski could be fits, but Winston is probably the best of that group.