Weighing the Pros and Cons of Dallas Cowboys' Top Free-Agent Targets
On Tuesday, the Cowboys restructured quarterback Tony Romo’s contract. Instead of receiving his $13.5 million base salary, Dallas moved $12.5 million into a signing bonus. The move will save the team $10 million according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer.
It’s evident Dallas needs to upgrade its roster this offseason, but we don’t know if it will add any significant pieces through free agency. Even with the added space available from multiple restructures (Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee), the Cowboys still have a limited amount of spending room.
Let’s take a look into Dallas’ top free-agent targets and the pros and cons they come with.
All statistics via Pro-Football-Reference.com unless indicated otherwise.
Donte Whitner, Safety
Donte Whitner is a solid NFL safety who’s been consistent for a number of years. In his last three seasons in San Francisco, he’s missed only one game.
In 2013, he totaled 73 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
Whitner is a physical safety and someone who always puts up dependable numbers. He’s a big hitter and is an intimidating force in the middle of the field.
The 49ers’ safety is a good player, but probably isn’t the most sought after free agent at his position. He would start alongside Barry Church immediately and solidify the back of the Dallas secondary.
Whitner will be entering his ninth NFL season, potentially meaning most of his good years are behind him. Another negative is he’s been noticed by the league for delivering big hits. The safety has been flagged numerous times for illegal helmet-to-helmet hits.
Henry Melton, Defensive Tackle
Henry Melton is a young defensive tackle who would upgrade a defensive front immediately. The 27-year-old is 6’3”, 280 pounds and a force to deal with in the interior.
Melton was a Pro Bowler in 2012 thanks to his 44 tackles and six sacks that season. From 2011-12, Melton recorded 13 sacks, which was second to only Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins among 4-3 defensive tackles.
He is an instant-impact player who will affect both the run and pass game. Melton has enough size to clog the middle, while possessing the quickness to get to the quarterback.
With Dallas’ line in disarray, he would start right now.
The defensive tackle has only played in 48 games in the NFL so his production is based off of a limited sample.
His biggest red flag is that he missed the majority of the 2013 season because of a torn ACL. Sometimes, bigger players have trouble recuperating from these types of injuries and are never the same.
Michael Bennett, Defensive End
Defensive end Michael Bennett just won a Super Bowl ring this past season with the Seattle Seahawks. The former Texas A&M Aggie is brothers with Martellus and enters his sixth season in 2014.
Bennett was undrafted in 2009 but has since proved many of his doubters wrong. Over his last two seasons, the end has recorded 17.5 sacks, including four forced fumbles.
He only started three games for Seattle this year, so his potential production could be very significant. Also, like some others on this list, Bennett won’t be demanding a ridiculous contract.
With Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware potentially departing, Dallas needs to bring someone in at defensive end. Bennett is a hard worker and someone who’s proven he can get to the quarterback.
Similar to Melton, Bennett has only started in 31 games so far in his career. He’s shown he has some real talent, but he’s started a full season only once back in 2012 with Tampa Bay.
James Jones, Wide Receiver
On the offensive side of the ball, Dallas would be smart to add a receiver. Veteran Miles Austin is likely to be cut after June 1, and the Cowboys have to find someone to replace him.
Green Bay’s James Jones could be the man for the job.
Jones is a consistent receiver who makes plays all over the field. Green Bay used its receivers in a variety of ways, so Jones has the flexibility to play where the Cowboys need him.
He’s got decent size at 6’1”, 208 pounds and has proven his ability within the red zone. Over the last three years, Jones has averaged eight receiving touchdowns despite not being in a featured role.
Jones has enough smarts and experience to be the perfect weapon opposite of Dez Bryant. He will exceed in one-on-one situations.
Like many players, Jones’ biggest downside is his age. He’ll be 30 by the start of next season.
Jones also missed two games in 2013 due to a knee injury.
Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver
Nicks is an explosive player in the passing game and can take any reception the distance. He’s produced two 1,000-yard receiving years and has averaged nearly 15 yards per catch in his career.
The 26-year-old is still in his prime and should have plenty of juice left to be a good player for several years.
Like Jones, Nicks would be an outstanding complement to Dallas’ Bryant. Perhaps a new team will rejuvenate the receiver to play like he did in 2010 and 2011 when he averaged 77 grabs, 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns.
The biggest issue regarding Nicks is his numbers have decreased the past few seasons. In 2013, he had only 56 receptions and no touchdowns.
He also had some problems staying out of trouble. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reported via Twitter that Nicks was fined repeatedly for being late to meetings.