The Dallas Cowboys are struggling to find their way under the salary cap, but they also need some personnel upgrades. For those two reasons, Big D will be working the phones this offseason in hopes of clearing some money off payroll and grabbing cheap veteran help.
This article is meant to highlight the best-case scenarios for the Cowboys in terms of potential trades during this offseason. Some possibilities are more likely to happen than others, but any of these deals would be perfect for owner Jerry Jones and Co.
Let's take a look at what ideal cheap additions and costly subtractions the Cowboys could make before the 2014 season comes around.
All statistics were retrieved from Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise stated.
Miles Austin hasn't been worth his paycheck two of the last three seasons and is due $5.5 million on June 1. He posted just 579 receiving yards in 10 games in 2011 and 244 in 11 games last season.
ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer reported that from what he's heard over on Valley Ranch, the Cowboys are ready to cut the veteran receiver this offseason. The better option for Dallas, though, would be if owner Jerry Jones could find a trade partner willing to take No. 19 in exchange for some draft picks.
It's highly unlikely that an Austin deal is struck simply because NFL general managers realize the Cowboys will cut Austin eventually. Honestly, though, even if the Cowboys can make a swap with some team for a seventh-round pick, they should take it.
There is no chance that Austin dons a Dallas uniform next season; the team should try dealing him for anything they can get before June 1. No matter how little the gain, it's better than none at all.
It would be hard for the Cowboys to convince any team to give something up for Austin, but it's certainly an ideal situation if they can.
Lost in the breakout 2013 season for Josh Gordon was teammate Greg Little, who did do a ton to make the Cleveland Browns want to keep him around last year.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport believes the new Cleveland regime might keep him around, however.
Under the old regime, #Browns WR Greg Little was almost certainly going to be cut. Now? Maybe he has a chance to stay another year.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 11, 2014
Rapoport's tweet doesn't exactly make you feel nice and secure if you're Little, though. If the Cowboys offered up an expendable player Cleveland had interest in, it's hard to see why the two teams wouldn't make the swap. Even a mid- or late-round draft pick might be enough to obtain him.
With Austin gone one way or the other next season, Little would be a fine replacement for No. 19. Little has never scored more than five touchdowns or recorded 1,000 receiving yards in a season, but that could change with Tony Romo throwing him the ball.
The young receiver would be a cheap acquisition that could pay off big later on.
DeMarcus Ware has been a defensive staple for the Cowboys since he was selected in the 2005 NFL draft. Unfortunately for Ware, his career-low six sacks in 13 games last season is fresh in the team's mind.
Ware is due $12.25 million next season, and he'll be 32 years old by that time. The Cowboys shouldn't be desperately looking to get rid of No. 94, but they should be open to a deal involving him.
If another team reaches out to the Dallas front office, the team should listen and pull the trigger if it involves multiple draft picks. If the Cowboys could get something like a second-, fourth- and sixth-round pick for Ware, they should take the picks and run.
Ware has been a phenomenal player and one of the few constant producers on defense, but Dallas needs as many picks as it can get to fix that unit. It is going to be just as hard for the Troy product to reach the backfield next season considering it's likely he'll have less experienced or talented players around him.
Trading Ware would give the Cowboys plenty of building blocks for years to come and be a huge help in regards to clearing cap space. Moving him shouldn't be priority No. 1, but the team should listen if deals involving him come up in conversation.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman told ESPN's Ben Goessling that Christian Ponder isn't going anywhere this offseason. That doesn't mean Jerry Jones shouldn't still give Spielman a call, though.
Spielman said today that Ponder "will be here," but sounded committed to idea of finding a young QB. Said #Vikings will add at least 2.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) February 14, 2014
Ponder hasn't been what Minnesota hoped he would be so far, but he hasn't been Brandon Weeden bad. He threw for almost 3,000 yards and posted 18 touchdowns as recently as 2012. There is still plenty of reasons to believe Ponder can be a decent NFL starting quarterback.
Sure, he'll never be a Tom Brady or even a Tony Romo-like player in all likelihood. That being said, it would be hard to find anyone who thought Ponder would be coming out of college.
Dallas doesn't need to make any move to grab him away from the Vikes this offseason, but Ponder is certainly worth inquiring about.
If the Cowboys brass can find a way to get a feel on just how likely No. 7 will be in Minnesota after next season, it would help draft-wise. Who knows, maybe Jones could even talk Spielman into a trade this offseason.
Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones and the rest need to start thinking about who they want to groom to be Romo's replacement when he retires. The franchise quarterback will be 34 years old next season and had two back surgeries last year.
It's not very likely that the Cowboys will be drafting a quarterback in the first round of this draft. Ponder is arguably just as good as any QB projected to go in the remaining rounds.
If Dallas could obtain him in a reasonable trade either this or next offseason, Ponder would be worth trying to groom for the post-Romo Cowboys.
Babin will be 34 years old before the 2014 season starts and was benched at times last year by the Jags in favor of Andre Branch.
There's little reason for Jacksonville to keep him around for next season, despite his team-high 7.5 sacks last year. ESPN.com's Michael Dirocco has noted there's almost no chance Babin is back with the team next season.
Dallas could offer the Jags one or both of its seventh-round picks, and that would probably be enough to pull the defensive end out of Jacksonville.
The Cowboys are in desperate need of defensive-line help. There is a very real possibility that they could lose Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher to free agency. Grabbing Babin from the Jags would allow Dallas to buy some time to rebuild its line using a veteran band-aid of sorts.