The Dallas Cowboys are in a tough spot financially this offseason, but they need to make moves in free agency nonetheless. The team is reportedly $22 million over the 2014 salary cap as of now, but it needs a ton of help defensively.
Dallas at best can land one big-ticket veteran this free-agency period and will have to bargain shop for the most part. With Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher about to hit the free-agent market, defensive line is where the Cowboys need to focus first and foremost.
This offseason must be primarily focused on fixing defensive holes for the Cowboys, with only a few offensive signings sprinkled in. Let's take a look at the odds for the Cowboys signing their likely top-five free-agent targets.
Henry Melton missed much of last season due to a torn ACL, and like Anthony Spencer, it will cost him money this free agency. The Cowboys might be able to work with that fact and make Melton their big free-agent signing of the offseason.
The career-long Chicago Bear posted 13 sacks and tallied 49 tackles between the 2011 and 2012 seasons. At age 27, Melton is also four years younger than Jason Hatcher. Melton could be the Cowboys' perfect answer to replacing Hatcher at defensive tackle, but he will be a costly acquisition.
Dallas would likely need to cut a high-cost player like Miles Austin or DeMarcus Ware in addition to restructuring Tony Romo's deal to make a serious run at Melton.
All three of those financial moves could very well happen, which makes acquiring Melton a question of his interest in joining the Cowboys.
Chicago and Dallas have had similar woes as of late, so there's a chance the defensive tackle may wish to join a team with a recent history of success. Melton is in all likelihood a 50-50 shot for the Cowboys come free agency, depending on their cap moves.
Team executive vice president Stephen Jones told Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News back on Jan. 23 about Anthony Spencer:
"He's the type of player you want on your team. We've got our fingers crossed and I know he does, too."
Jones and the Cowboys have given Spencer the franchise tag each of the last two offseasons, which might sour him on coming back. Then again, his injury that sidelined him basically all of last season likely has teams less excited about Spencer than, say, a season ago.
Spencer's injury cost him big money, plain and simple. The Cowboys can capitalize on his likely lower price tag and probably can bring him back on a cost-efficient contract. Between Spencer and Hatcher, the former is a much more likely signing than the latter.
Dallas shouldn't throw big money to keep Spencer, but he's worth pursuing due to his career-high 11 sacks in 2012. Spencer is a familiar and productive face that has probably close to a 50-60 percent chance of rejoining the 'Boys this offseason.
Unlike Anthony Spencer, there is a slim chance that Jason Hatcher is back in Dallas come next season. The veteran made it clear back in December that he wants to test free agency and is coming off a career year.
Hatcher is going to demand big money due to his 11 sacks and trip to the Pro Bowl last season. A change of scenery and a truckload of cash that his former team can't match should be enough to lure No. 97 out of town.
The Cowboys should already be preparing for free agency as if they won't be able to re-sign Hatcher. They shouldn't spend the money to get him back, and it seems Hatcher might not be all that interested in coming back. It's not too often a player tells his former team he's going to test the waters during a playoff push.
Hatcher was one of the team's few bright spots on defense last year, but there is almost no chance he's back next season.
There are two things that come to mind when you look at Kenny Britt's NFL career since being selected No. 30 overall in the 2009 draft. He is immensely talented, but he is also a certified bonehead.
Britt has never eclipsed the 800-yard receiving mark in a season let alone reached 1,000. His career-high of nine touchdown catches came back in 2010, which was the last year he was considerably productive.
Over the last three seasons, Britt has played in just 29 games for the Titans, tallying less than 1,000 yards and just seven touchdowns.
Rich Gannon just called Kenny Britt a "waste of talent" and there's no debating that. #FOAud— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) November 24, 2013
What Jerry Jones and his staff probably only see when looking at Britt, though, is that often-mentioned untapped talent. Dallas has never shied away from bringing in a talented receiver with an attitude—just ask Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant, Terrell Owens or Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys will likely be forced to cut veteran Miles Austin due to the fact that he is owed $5.5 million next season. That's just too much money for the team to dish out now that Terrence Williams emerged last year.
Britt is a possibility because he would likely be a cheap acquisition and one that would be tempting for Jones to look the other way on. There's probably about a 60-65 percent chance Britt could land in Dallas this offseason.
From a Cowboys perspective, there's really nothing not to love about Jared Allen. The team is in desperate need of help on the defensive line, and Allen has been one of the league's best ends for some time now.
Over the past three seasons, Allen has recorded 45.5 sacks, which includes his career-high 22-sack season in 2011.
He has been a headache for opposing quarterbacks for some time, and given he will be 32 by next season, the Vikings have little reason to try to re-sign him. Minnesota has already told Allen he won't be back in purple unless he takes a massive discount in pay, according to ESPN.com's Ben Goessling.
Allen fills a big need for the Cowboys, who could have to part ways with Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer this offseason. He would also be Dallas' biggest free-agent acquisition since Terrell Owens came to town back in 2006.
Allen would put money in Jerry Jones' pocket and be a key asset for Rod Marinelli's defense. It would be a win-win for the residents of Jerry World.
That doesn't change the fact that Allen is a bit of a long shot for the Cowboys, though, who would need to make serious cap space to get his attention. The five-time Pro Bowler probably has less than a 50 percent chance of landing in Big D.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.