Dallas Cowboys

Free Agents, Draft Picks That Could Fill Dallas Cowboys' Biggest Needs

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IDecember 10, 2013

Free Agents, Draft Picks That Could Fill Dallas Cowboys' Biggest Needs

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    David Banks/Getty Images

    There’s still plenty of the 2013 season left to be played, and the Dallas Cowboys have high hopes of making a run into the playoffs. Whether or not that happens, there’s little doubt that Dallas has some major holes it needs to fill on both sides of the ball.

    It’s going to be really interesting to see how the ‘Boys finish the year because the future of the franchise hangs in the balance. If they tank down the stretch, there’s a chance that head coach Jason Garrett will be sent packing. If the Cowboys can at least make the postseason, Garrett will likely stick around.

    Either way, Dallas desperately needs to fill a few critical gaps in its roster. Let’s check out the potential free agents and rookies the ‘Boys could land in 2014 at five critical positions.

    All free agency information is courtesy of KFFL. Players' heights and weights courtesy of ESPN.

Defensive End

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    With DeMarcus Ware set to enter his age-32 season and already clearly fading in 2013, the Cowboys haven’t been able to generate the sort of pass rush they’ll need to sustain success in the postseason, assuming they even make it there.

    George Selvie has been a nice free-agent addition, and I think he should get an extension, but the Cowboys’ long-term defensive end situation is still very much up in the air.

     

    Potential Free Agents

    Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings)

    Michael Bennett (Seattle Seahawks)

    Willie Young (Detroit Lions)

    You’re going to notice a common theme throughout this slideshow, which is that high-profile free agents are unlikely to come to Dallas since the team doesn’t have much cap space. Even if the team shuffles funds around, it probably wouldn’t be smart for Dallas to add players such as Allen, who will be 32 next season.

    Bennett and Young are both a few years younger, although they too might be out of Dallas’ price range. Young is the most likely candidate to get signed, in my view, but my hunch is that the Cowboys will hang on to their current starters and find help via the draft.

     

    Potential Rookies

    Trent Murphy (Stanford)

    Chris Smith (Arkansas)

    If the Cowboys go after a pass-rusher in the first round, Murphy will be on their radar. At 6’6”, he has the prototypical length that defensive coordinators love.

    A round or two later, the ‘Boys might be able to land Smith. He’s shorter at only 6’3”, so his arm length will be critical. If he has unusually long arms for his height, he might end up being a sensational value.

Defensive Tackle

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    There’s no single position the Cowboys need to address more than defensive tackle. With the Cowboys highly unlikely to re-sign Jason Hatcher and fellow starter Nick Hayden providing little production, Dallas will be in the market for two starters in 2014.

     

    Potential Free Agents

    Alan Branch (Buffalo Bills)

    Lamarr Houston (Oakland Raiders)

    Linval Joseph (New York Giants)

    Henry Melton (Chicago Bears)

    Of the players listed, Houston is by far the best of the bunch, but the Cowboys probably won’t be able to afford him. Branch isn’t a scheme fit, assuming that Dallas remains in a 4-3 defense. That leaves Joseph and Melton. The latter option is intriguing because, although very undersized, he could provide a big pass-rushing threat that Dallas will desperately need from the inside after Hatcher’s likely departure.

     

    Potential Rookies

    Will Sutton (Arizona State)

    Calvin Barnett (Oklahoma State)

    It’s a weak year for defensive tackles, which is going to hurt Dallas. There are some borderline first-round prospects available, but it’s likely that they’ll get artificially pushed up the board because of needs across the league.

    Sutton is one of those fringe first-rounders who could land in Dallas. He’s short at only 6’1”, but he checks in at 288 pounds.

    Meanwhile, Barnett could be a mid-round option for Dallas. He’s not much of a pass-rushing threat, however.

Safety

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The Cowboys have one safety of the future in Barry Church, but they still need a deep “center fielder” in the back end. There’s still hope for youngsters like J.J. Wilcox, but the Cowboys would be well served to go out and make something happen at the position.

     

    Potential Free Agents

    Mike Adams (Denver Broncos)

    Yeremiah Bell (Arizona Cardinals)

    Stevie Brown (New York Giants)

    Jairus Byrd (Buffalo Bills)

    Donte Whitner (San Francisco 49ers)

    There are a handful of quality safeties set to hit the market. Byrd will be the best of the bunch, but he’s going to price himself out of Dallas’ range. Brown is a really interesting player to watch because he’s missing the 2013 season with an ACL tear. That’s obviously not a positive, but it’s going to dramatically hurt his value. That means the Cowboys could find a relative bargain on a player with potential ball-hawking ability.

     

    Potential Rookies

    Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix (Alabama)

    Dion Bailey (USC)

    It’s going to be a really weak safety class, and there’s a chance that no one will go in the first round. If a safety is selected in the first 32 picks, it will probably be Clinton-Dix. He’s got the combination of size and range that the Cowboys need.

Guard

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Center Travis Frederick looks good in 2013, and Ronald Leary has been decent, so it will be up to Dallas to find a quality right guard to complete the interior line trio. Guard is one of the positions at which a veteran makes sense since you can typically acquire a solid player for a decent price. The Cowboys did that this year with veteran Brian Waters, who might actually be an option again in 2014 if he decides to return.

     

    Potential Free Agents

    Chad Rinehart (San Diego Chargers)

    Kevin Boothe (New York Giants)

    Chris Williams (St. Louis Rams)

    Of these players, Rinehart has probably played the best this season. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) has tracked him as allowing seven pressures in pass protection, compared to 10 for Boothe and 19 for Williams.

     

    Potential Rookies

    David Yankey (Stanford)

    Chris Burnette (Georgia)

    It’s always difficult to draft a rookie lineman who can be effective right out of the gate. Linemen typically take a few years to develop, which makes it more likely that the Cowboys will simply sign a free agent if needed. Yankey is the consensus top interior lineman on the board.

Tight End

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Cowboys already have two young tight ends in James Hanna and Gavin Escobar, but neither seems ready to make the jump to becoming a starter. Jason Witten of course holds that title right now, but it won’t be too much longer until his playing days are over.

     

    Potential Free Agents

    Greg Olsen (Panthers)

    Brandon Pettigrew (Lions)

    Even considering Witten’s age, the Cowboys don’t need a veteran to come in next season. If they’re really committed to finding Witten’s replacement and another quality red-zone threat to help wide receiver Dez Bryant, they’ll need to look in the draft.

     

    Potential Rookies

    Eric Ebron (UNC)

    Marcel Jensen (Fresno State)

    Ebron could very well be a first-round pick in 2014. It’s unlikely that Dallas will spend its first-rounder on a tight end, but you never know what will happen if a highly rated player drops. There were rumors that the team was considering tight end Tyler Eifert in 2013, so it’s a possibility, even with Hanna's and Escobar’s presence.

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