Dallas Cowboys: Free Agency in Review

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 28, 2013

Oct 28, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions outside linebacker Justin Durant (52) looks over the playbook on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at Ford Field. Detroit Lions defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Two notable developments have taken place in the last 48 hours that have enabled us to actually talk about the Dallas Cowboys' experience on the 2013 free-agent market in article form. Until then, there was nothing of significance to report. 

The Cowboys made a few in-house tweaks in order to free up just enough cash to sign two veteran defenders late in the game, adding depth to a roster that will have to be replenished in April's draft. As a result of those moves, the 'Boys are now left with just enough money to pay an entry-level accountant. 

Let's break down what's been happening in Dallas this month...

I've color-coded two losses with two corresponding replacements. I think going from Dan Connor to Justin Durant in the Sam linebacker spot is an upgrade and replacing safety Gerald Sensabaugh with Will Allen isn't terrible. They have enough depth at linebacker to survive after cutting Connor, but the safety spot is weaker now. 

Kenyon Coleman is marked as a starter, but he's not much use to the Cowboys at this point. He's getting up there in age and Dallas doesn't have a lot of use for him in its new 4-3 defense. None of the other losses should make a difference. 

The most controversial development thus far has been Anthony Spencer's franchise tag, which will cost the team $10.6 million if the two sides can't agree on a long-term deal by July 15. Most had assumed Spencer wouldn't be brought back after a career year, but the Cowboys fought through a cap crunch to keep one of their best defensive players. 

They're undoubtedly a better team with Spencer than without him, but they've now restructured nine veteran deals, partly as a result of the hit they're taking with Spencer. That could cost them dearly in future years.

It also doesn't help that they've yet to strike a long-term agreement with quarterback Tony Romo, who is due to cost the Cowboys $16.8 million against the cap in 2013. 

Based solely on their signings, I gave the Cowboys a grade of B- in a league-wide slideshow earlier this week. But when you take into account their failure to free up space by coming to terms with Spencer and Romo, the Cowboys lose points. 

Best signing: Justin Durant. It was either him or Allen, and Durant, who is a very strong run defender with tons of experience, comes cheap. 

Worst signing: Will Allen. They need the depth at safety, but Allen is probably beyond his prime. He wouldn't likely be signed if not for his history with Monte Kiffin.

"Best" loss: Kevin Ogletree. How many chances did Ogletree have in Dallas? Time to give guys like Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley a shot.

Worst loss: Victor Butler. He never got a chance behind Spencer and DeMarcus Ware, but Butler performed well in limited reps during his four years with the Cowboys. He leaves Dallas at the age of 25.