Ranking Dallas Cowboys' Best Remaining Free-Agency Options
The Dallas Cowboys have been on the losing side of free agency so far but still have time to sign some difference-makers before all is said and done.
Jerry Jones' team has some big holes to fill before the 2014 regular season starts. Luckily for him and the Dallas faithful, there are more than a few names still available that can help.
The Cowboys need to rebuild on defense primarily, but it wouldn't hurt to look at a few new faces to bring in on offense, either. With the first initial wave of free agency over, now is the time one can expect to hear noise coming from Valley Ranch.
Here are Dallas' five best remaining options to sign this free-agency period. These rankings are based on how much immediate impact players will bring to Big D and how effective they would be at filling a need at a specific position.
5. QB Brandon Weeden
Would signing Brandon Weeden help boost jersey sales? Probably not. Is he worth bringing in as a No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback? Absolutely.
Weeden couldn't cut it in Cleveland, where he never posted a season with more touchdowns than interceptions. In his defense, the two-year NFL quarterback didn't exactly have the most star-studded offense around him, though.
It is still somewhat early in Weeden's career to write him off as a complete bust. He might not be the best guy to take over Tony Romo's job down the road, but he could become a solid backup. As owner Jerry Jones told Charean Williams and Clarence Hill at the 2014 NFL Combine though, the team isn't even sure Kyle Orton is coming back next season.
“No I don’t know [that he is coming back],” Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporters. “But I haven’t gone and asked him.”
The Cowboys reportedly have interest in Weeden, according to a source who spoke with Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.
The Browns did spend a first-round pick on the former Oklahoma State player not too long ago. And remember, Jason Garrett was a quarterback and quarterbacks coach before calling the shots in Big D.
Garrett could work with Weeden to fix his issues reading defensive coverages over time and further develop his cannon of an arm.
Weeden isn't going to cost the Cowboys a ton to sign, and he would be a fine project for Garrett to work on come training camp.
4. FS Danny McCray
A return to Dallas looked bleak for special teams standout Danny McCray not too long ago, but things change, as they say.
Rowan Kavner of DallasCowboys.com reported on March 14 that the deal between the Cowboys and former Saints linebacker Will Herring fell through. The two sides had a mutual parting of ways over the language of Herring's proposed contract, according to Kavner.
The deal with Cowboys and Herring is now off. Parting of ways before deal had been signed— Rowan Kavner (@KavnerDC) March 14, 2014
Now that Herring won't be joining the 'Boys, McCray becomes one of the free-agent market's best special teams players left. He might have only tallied eight special teams tackles last year, but don't let that tarnish his 87 in 2012.
McCray has been one of the Cowboys' most reliable sources for bringing down ball-carriers on punt and kick returns for some time. He also provides emergency depth in the secondary and doesn't exactly come with a high price tag. He made just $630,000 last year.
Dallas is already having enough trouble trying to rebuild its defense; the last thing it needs is another hole to fill. The easiest and cheapest way to bring in special teams help is to re-sign McCray.
3. RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Last year, DeMarco Murray became the first Cowboys rusher to tally more than 1,000 yards in a season since Julius Jones. 2013 was easily Murray's best year in the NFL, but it didn't stop injuries from plaguing him.
Over his three years in the NFL, Murray has missed 11 games due to various injuries. With Phillip Tanner now off the roster, Dallas could use some proven insurance behind Murray like Maurice Jones-Drew.
Jones-Drew is no stranger to ailments himself, missing 10 games in 2012 due to a left foot injury. The year before that though, he led the NFL in rushing with 1,606 yards.
The only NFL team reportedly looking Jones-Drew's way right now is the New York Jets, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
Jets need to bolster pass catchers, but they want to improve RBs too. #NYJ showing serious interest in Maurice Jones-Drew, per source.— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) March 12, 2014
The fact he's still out there, though, indicates that the longtime Jaguar is not a hot free-agent commodity.
It would have to be at the right price of course, but bringing in an established veteran back to spell Murray would be a smart move by Dallas. In fact, the Cowboys were interested in trading for a rusher as recently as last October.
Murray had a phenomenal 2013 season, but the Cowboys can't ignore his issues with staying healthy. At almost 29 years old, Jones-Drew has enough left to start four or five games if Murray goes down. The two could also make for a great one-two punch in the fourth quarter if the Cowboys have a lead to protect.
If Jerry Jones can convince the three-time Pro Bowler to take a humble contract, Jones-Drew would be perfect insurance for Murray.
2. DE Anthony Spencer
Unlike the first three names on this list, Anthony Spencer is garnering quite a bit of interest from NFL teams this free agency.
Anthony Spencer has nearly 7 teams interested in him.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 9, 2014
Dallas might have a hard time bringing back its Pro Bowler from 2012, but he is someone the team must pursue heavily. Although Spencer missed almost all of 2013 due to an injury, he is familiar with the Cowboys' defensive system. He would help bring some stability to a defensive line currently in flux.
While Spencer is indeed getting calls from a few teams other than Dallas, his rehab from his latest injury must be driving his price down. The veteran cannot ask for big money based solely on his breakout 2012 season.
The Cowboys need to convince Spencer to return to Dallas if only for a one- or two-year deal. If it is a short-term contract, Spencer can use the Cowboys as a way to showcase he has moved past his injury and is back to Pro Bowl level.
Doing so would also give Jason Garrett's crew time to find a young defensive end to groom the draft. The deal doesn't have to be for seven years; one or two would probably be the most beneficial for both parties.
Bringing back Spencer gives the Cowboys a stout defensive lineman to build around or a solid bandage to use while trying to bring in a young replacement.
1. DT Henry Melton
Much like Anthony Spencer, Henry Melton is being forced to bring down his asking price due to an injury last season. Melton missed 13 games last year due to a left knee injury.
2012 was a different story for Melton, however. The former Chicago Bear recorded six sacks and made the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
After leaving Seattle without a contract, Melton is currently on his way to visit the Cowboys down in Dallas. The veteran defensive lineman would help ease the loss of Jason Hatcher this offseason. He would easily become the Cowboys' best defensive presence up front if he were to sign with his hometown team.
Source: Dallas Cowboys free agent target Henry Melton back in Dallas, but 'talks have heated up' with several teams http://t.co/WBXp9emIxd— Brandon George (@DMN_George) March 16, 2014
The fact that Melton is a Texas native and played for the Longhorns in college has to be a plus for America's Team in the negotiation process. Signing with the 'Boys would bring Melton back home, and he knows he would become one of the team's biggest names on defense.
Defensive line is without question the Cowboys' biggest hole on that side of the football. Melton is arguably the best defensive lineman left out there. He easily topped this list as Dallas' best remaining option to sign this free agency.
All statistics were retrieved from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.