With the 2013 season nearing an end, the Dallas Cowboys have to start considering their plan for next year. Although no changes will take place anytime soon, the team must always be thinking about its roster and how to improve.
Dallas currently sits at 7-7, in second place in the NFC East. Even though things aren’t looking too optimistic, victories in the final two games will earn Dallas the division title and playoff berth.
This week, the Cowboys’ focus is on the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be making his second straight start. Typically going against a backup quarterback would be beneficial, however, Dallas has lost two straight to Josh McCown and Matt Flynn.
Whether the Cowboys make the playoffs or not, many changes will occur this offseason. Let’s take a look at some players the team shouldn’t bring back next year.
All statistics via Pro-Football-Reference.com unless indicated otherwise.
Austin hasn't been the same the last few years.
Miles Austin has had a rough couple of years since signing his big contract extension. Since 2010 when he totaled more than 1,000 yards receiving, Austin simply hasn’t been the same guy.
In his past three seasons (including this year), the receiver has yet to catch more than 70 passes or seven touchdowns. That simply won’t cut it for a guy who signed a seven-year, $57 million contract.
Austin’s biggest downfall has been his inability to stay healthy. Even though he hasn’t missed a significant amount of games, Austin just isn’t as effective on the field like he used to be. Austin’s hamstrings have been a reoccurring issue and are once again limiting him this season.
Another reason I don’t see Austin coming back to the team next year is the depth the Cowboys have at receiver. Dez Bryant is a star, and both Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley have shown encouraging potential. Unless Austin takes a significant pay cut, he won’t be in Dallas much longer.
Heath just isn't the answer at safety.
Jeff Heath was a name most Cowboys fans were unaware of before the season started. Fifteen games in, he’s been a key player on what’s turned out to be an awful defense.
The safety has played in 14 games this year and has amazingly started in seven of them. The 22-year-old has 50 total tackles.
Heath’s effort has never been questioned, but his talent just isn’t on par with an NFL starter. He’s often in good position to make plays but doesn’t come up with them.
Similar to Austin’s situation, Dallas’ depth at safety should keep Heath from being on next year’s roster. Barry Church has solidified himself as a solid starter, while J.J. Wilcox has shown signs of potential. The Cowboys still have hope that former fourth-round pick Matt Johnson can have an impact as well.
Spencer will want too much money.
Anthony Spencer is another big name on this list. The defensive end has spent most of this season on the injured reserve because of a knee injury.
Spencer is a very productive player, leading the team in tackles last year with 95 in total. The Cowboys won’t be able to keep him around for a few reasons, though.
The main issue for Spencer is that he will be too expensive for a team that usually finds itself going over the cap limit. Spencer is in a contract year, and despite missing most of the year, will be looking for a big payday this summer.
Dallas has avoided giving him a big deal by using its franchise tag the past two years.
The other big reason Spencer won’t be with the Cowboys is because of the play of George Selvie. Selvie has been one of the most consistent players on defense and is second to only Jason Hatcher in sacks with seven.
Like Austin, unless Spencer settles for significantly less money than he’s been making, he’ll be elsewhere in 2014.
Dallas' line is fine without Waters.
Brian Waters was a late acquisition by Jerry Jones to try to shore up what was a struggling offensive line. Waters started only five games for the Cowboys before suffering a torn triceps.
Waters is a very good talent on the interior of the line, but he won’t be with Dallas for several reasons.
First off, the 36-year-old is up there in age and has played 13 NFL seasons. He can only have so much remaining in the tank.
Secondly, the Cowboys don’t need him. Although, most people thought his signing in the beginning of the year was necessary for a subpar line, it turns out that wasn’t true.
Both guards Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau have been brilliant this season compared to last. Running back DeMarco Murray is on pace to rush for 1,000 yards, and quarterback Tony Romo has had quality time to pass in every game thus far.
Waters might not retire, but the Cowboys shouldn’t sign him to a contract when they have all the pieces they need.
The Cowboys don't get Hanna involved enough.
Tight end James Hanna is the last player Dallas shouldn’t bring back for 2014. Unfortunately for him, this reasoning has nothing to do with his play, but the scheme and how he’s being utilized.
In 2012, Hanna showed real promise and signs that he could be the tight end of the future. The Cowboys simply haven’t played him like many thought, and he’s had minimal impact.
So far, the former Oklahoma Sooner has caught only 12 passes for a measly 73 yards.
In the offseason, there was a lot of talk about Dallas using multiple-tight end sets and taking advantage of its big, athletic tight ends. That hasn’t happened at all.
Hanna definitely has talent, but with Jason Witten and second-round pick Gavin Escobar in front of him on the depth chart, I don’t see how he’s going to produce more.
Perhaps Dallas could use Hanna to trade for another draft pick, but either way, I can’t see him being on the roster with how the team uses him.