With the Safety position in such a bad state (Keith Davis, Pat Watkins and Courtney Brown are all below average players at Safety and with Roy Williams having gone from very good to very average over the years), I would expect the Cowboys to look very hard at this position in free agency and the draft.
After shedding two significant contributing players on the Dline (Right DE starter Canty and NT backup Tank Johnson) I would definitely be expecting the Cowboys to look hard at the free agents and draftees in this position too.
But I also don't think the Cowboys will go for top tier guys at the positions. Guys like Albert Haynesworth and Jermaine Phillips are probably off the list but there's some very interesting players who'll sign much cheaper contracts that could help this team.
Sean Jones. Unrestricted free agent and former second round draft pick who's a 5 year veteran and was the starting Strong Safety for Cleveland the last 3 years. Compiled some very good numbers in 06 (111 tackles, 11 pass deflections and 5 interceptions) and 07 (96 tackles, 10 pass deflections and 5 interceptions). 08 was an injury shortened season (12 games) but he still managed 56 tackles, 4 pass deflections and 4 interceptions. Has good size at 6'1" 220 and is only 26 years old. An upgrade over the Safety formerly known as #31 at a cheaper price, although with the dearth of quality Safety's in free agency Jones could get substantially overpaid and be out of consideration.
James Butler. Unrestricted free agent who went undrafted in 2005 and was signed by the Giants. A solid backup and a good special teamer his first two years (05 & 06), he got majority starting reps in 07 (12 starts) and 08 (14 starts) and had solid numbers (61 tackles, 7 pass deflections and 1 interception in 07. And 68 tackles, 7 pass deflections and 3 interceptions in 08). Good size at 6'2" 215 and is only 26 years old. This former undrafted player should be very reasonably priced in the free agent market and brings several things that this ball club badly needs;
1) An upgrade at Safety: he's undoubtedly better than Keith Davis, Pat Watkins and Courtney Brown and I think at least on par with the shadow of a man we call Roy Williams and for a substantially cheaper price too.
2) Special teams coverage ability: he was very successful on special teams in his first two years and we all know how badly we need special teams help.
3) Playoff and Super Bowl victory experience: Butler led the Giants with 10 tackles in their Super Bowl shut down of the Patriots prolific offense. He has played, and played well, in successful postseason football and this team needs a few more people with that experience.
The price of Butler should not be a prohibitive of drafting a Safety. Butler can be a solid and reasonably priced starter while a rookie learns the ropes. If the rookie catches on quick Butler can become the Nickel safety and play special teams and fill in either Safety spot in case of injury.
Colin Cole. Backup DT for the Packers played in all 16 games last year and had 30 tackles, half a sack and 4 pass deflections. Hardly dominating but consider that our backup (Tank Johnson) actually had less production than that in his 16 games. Cole is no-ones saviour but he could be an improvement in our backup NT spot (especially if the Cowboys aren't sold on rookies like Ron Brace etc). Cole's big asset is his big frame, he's 6'1" and 330 pounds. That's true NT build and there's very few of them in free agency. He's only 28 and as far as NT's concerned, from what we've seen in other big guys, his best years might be in front of him.
Igor Olshansky. Drafted with the third pick of the second round by the San Diego Chargers, Olshansky has been a starting Right DE since his rookie year and a solid to good player through his first four years but is coming off a down year in 08. If they're looking for a cheaper replacement for Chris Canty than this is the guy. Had his best year in 07 with 49 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 pass deflections and even an interception. Is a very strong player (41 bench reps at combine in 04) and good against the run. Prototype size at 6'6" 309 pounds and only 26 years old. Drafted into Wade Phillips 3-4 Chargers team in 04 and started at Right DE for three years under Phillips on a defense that was outstanding against the run in that period (3rd in 04, 1st in 05 and 7th in 06). Perhaps the Cowboys zero effort into resigning Canty is because Wade thinks Olshansky is a better player that can be had at a better price.
You could probably sign Olshansky, Butler and Cole for less than it will cost someone for Albert Haynesworth alone.
Butler stands out to me as a perfect fit for us. We need to add more than just a draft pick at Safety going into 09 season. Relying solely on a rookie to start 16 games (I'm assuming, no, hoping, Roy Williams is cut by then) is risky and even if he's great we're still one injury away from the leftovers from the clueless crew of Davis, Watkins and Brown from stepping into a starting role. No thanks. Butler offers us plenty at a good price.
Olshansky is the other that we should go for. He can step right in and start no worries as he knows Wade's 3-4 as well as any. At worst, a very good run player at a probably decent price.
Anyone else like any of these guys?
Or are there better free agent options?