Breaking Down the Dallas Cowboys' Depth Chart After the Peak of Free Agency
The Dallas Cowboys haven't been anywhere near as loud as they were in free agency last year, but there have been moves made that will affect next year's roster. Starters have been cut and former first-round picks have been shown the door, leaving the roster looking a tad different so far.
The mentality down on Valley Ranch is always a "win-now" state of mind; there is no such thing as rebuilding years for the Cowboys. With the salary cap situation the way it is for Dallas, however, changes beyond this current roster will likely be made in the draft, not free agency.
Here's a look at how the Cowboys' roster looks now that the free-agency frenzy has calmed and the calendar creeps closer to the 2013 draft.
There won't be any changes at this position with Dallas and Tony Romo trying to get a multi-year extension done.
Kyle Orton will remain Romo's backup. The Cowboys tend to like rolling into the season with three quarterbacks, though, so it will be interesting to see if they go with a cheap veteran or undrafted free agent.
Obviously, DeMarco Murray will remain the Cowboys' starter here, but backup Felix Jones is gone. The Cowboys still have Philip Tanner and Lance Dunbar and haven't been the least bit active in replacing Jones.
Considering Dunbar was officially the team's No. 3 rusher last season, until training camp begins, he is the team's backup for Murray unless an outside player is brought in.
Running back could be a position the Cowboys address in the middle to late rounds of the draft. Dallas could also try to get someone like a Peyton Hillis before the season, but fans shouldn't hold their breath. With no real news or rumors linking Dallas to any running backs so far, it is unlikely that will change.
There's really not much to say here. The Cowboys seem content to roll with Vickers going into next season. The former Houston Texan has another year on his contract with Dallas.
He did well blocking for DeMarco Murray and company in 2012, and there's no reason to make any changes until that isn't the case.
Kevin Ogletree decided to leave town for Tampa Bay, but, other than that, not much has changed at wideout. Regardless of Ogletree's departure, though, Dwayne Harris solidified himself as the team's No. 3 receiver after a stellar 2012.
He never recorded an eye-popping game, but Harris had four games with three or more receptions last season and was a definite factor on special teams as a returner.
As far as future signings, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones has answered questions regarding bringing in Laurent Robinson. Jones admitted to being hesitant about Robinson's unfortunate year full of concussions in 2012.
Jones told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News his thoughts on Robinson returning to Dallas, saying, "We’ve got to look at the big picture with Laurent. He had some injuries that we’re going to be doing our homework on and be going from there."
The former Cowboy missed nine games last year for Jacksonville due to concussions.
John Phillips decided to sign with San Diego, but Dallas still has 2012 draft pick John Hannah and future Hall of Famer Jason Witten. It's doubtful Dallas feels stressed to address tight end at all this offseason.
What the Cowboys could do is bring on a veteran for the league minimum or an undrafted free agent to have three tight ends on the roster, but the position is far from a priority.
The Cowboys decided to re-sign center Phil Costa despite a respectable 2012 for backup Ryan Cook. Dallas' offensive line was a liability last season considering the 36 sacks Romo took. That sack total is the exact same Romo took in 2011 and marks the highest total in his career.
Considering Romo is a pretty mobile quarterback who gets out of the pocket, that number is unacceptable.
Doug Free could be shown the door before the 2013 season considering how much his salary counts against Dallas and his poor play over the past two seasons. Free has been unable to buy Romo time and has been unable to show that same fire that led to his pay day in 2010.
Costa is a Cowboy for another two years at least, so the team can only hope he improves over time as well. Costa was injured for a long while in 2012, and even when he was in the lineup, Romo was still seeing pressure from the middle.
Then there is Costa's inability to snap the football well on a consistent basis. This was a huge problem in 2011 and didn't seem completely fixed last season either.
The Cowboys need to be thinking offensive tackle in the first two rounds of the draft and should let Free go before next year. Dallas decided to stick with Costa at center, so there won't be any changes there.
With Spears gone and a new system, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin has choices to make.
With the Tampa 2 coming to Big D, Kiffin will need to move someone inside with Jay Ratliff and will likely have to move DeMarcus Ware to defensive end. Ware hasn't played defensive end during his years in Dallas, but new D-line coach Rod Marinelli seems optimistic.
“I think it’ll aid him a little bit, because your takeoff is better," Marinelli told Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
As for Ratliff's new partner inside, Lissemore is the only real candidate on the roster for now, but that can change between now and next season.
The Cowboys did do some re-signing at linebacker, giving Ernie Sims a new deal and Anthony Spencer another franchise tag. Spencer went to the Pro Bowl last year, but like Ware, he very well might be playing a new position in 2013.
Sims received a new deal thanks to his stellar performance while filling in for Bruce Carter and Sean Lee. Both were injured for a good part of last year and Sims came off the street as a free agent. Sims played some great football for Dallas, considering his 26 tackles in just 10 games. With Carter and Lee back and Sims re-signed, this should be the linebacker roster come September.
As for Spencer, like Romo, the Cowboys are going to work to get him a new contract. If there isn't a deal done for Spencer after the 2013 season, Dallas likely won't see him back the following year.
Given the changing climate of Dallas' defensive scheme, the listings above don't rank as places on a depth chart.
Yes, Mike Jenkins is no longer a Cowboy, but that doesn't sound as devastating as it would've in 2009. Since his Pro Bowl year, Jenkins has plateaued. The one-time Cowboys draft pick recorded just two interceptions over the past three seasons. Jenkins played in all 16 games of a season just once over the aforementioned time span.
The secondary has not plateaued, however, with Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr making a great duo as starting cornerbacks. Dallas moved up in the draft last year to snag Claiborne, and Carr was the team's biggest free-agent signing in recent years.
The issue for Dallas in the secondary, though, lies at safety. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not totally sold on Matt Johnson. Chances are neither is the rest of Cowboys nation.
Johnson hasn't done much since being drafted last year, and with Gerald Sensabaugh gone, there are not many other options. This is another position that Dallas really needs to address in the first two or three rounds come draft day.
Without reliable safeties, it almost washes out the fact of having talents like Carr and Claiborne at corner.
Like Lawrence Vickers at fullback, neither Chris Jones nor Dan Bailey have anything to worry about at their positions. Bailey missed just two field goals all on 31 attempts last season and made all seven attempts from 40-49 yards.
Jones did miss most of 2012 due to injury but Dallas couldn't find anyone worthy of replacing him in that time. Last year, Brian Moorman filled in and posted an average of just 44.6 yards per punt attempt.
There shouldn't be any changes at either kicking position by next season barring any injuries.