As you're probably aware, this offseason will be different from previous offseasons due to the looming uncapped year. And because Dallas made it into the "Final Eight Tournament" (as Wade would say) it’s even more restrictive to the Cowboys. Let's take a look at the Cowboys’ Free Agents, who might be available, and whom the Cowboys could target.
First off, here is the list of Unrestricted and Restricted Free Agents from the Cowboys:
- OG Montrae Holland (UFA), WR Miles Austin (RFA), S Gerald Sensabaugh (RFA), DE Marcus Spears (RFA), DE Jason Hatcher (RFA), WR Sam Hurd (RFA), S Pat Watkins (RFA), OT Pat McQuistan (RFA), C/OG Cory Proctor (RFA), NT Junior Siavii (RFA), C Duke Preston (RFA), K Shaun Suisham (RFA), and CB Cletis Gordan (RFA.)
As you can see, only Holland is unrestricted, and he’s not a big concern. I will assume Austin, Sensabaugh and two of the Defensive Linemen (Spears, Bowen and Hatcher) get re-signed.
So, let’s consider which positions Dallas might want to upgrade. On offense, we must first considered the Offensive Line. I think most of us agree this is a position of concern, especially for the future. There were a few interesting names on the Unrestricted Free Agent list: Chad Clifton, Stephen Neal, Kevin Mawae, etc., but these guys are all older. The problem with our line is not really talent, its age. This needs to be something addressed in the draft. Our starters for 2010 are set. Let's move on. The only other position on Offense I considered was WR. But we all know that Jerry is not doing anything with Roy Williams this year and Crayton and Ogletree are nice slot guys. I think we're set there.
Now let’s look at the defensive side of the ball. Let’s start with the D Line, where I think we will be short a man. I don’t see all three Free Agents getting re-signed. Bowen might be the priority and Spears and Hatcher could use an upgrade. In looking at the DTs/NTs and DEs available, there is a wealth! Here's the list I saw:
I'll get back to an analysis of these guys later. Let's see what else is out there. I considered ILB briefly, but quickly dismissed it. Brooking and James played excellent last year and we need to develop guys like Jason Williams and Stephen Hodge here. Cornerback could use a slight upgrade, but not at one of the first three spots. Anything here will need to come in the draft and be youthful. Safety is another position I could see Dallas considering in Free Agency. Sensabaugh is a RFA and should probably be resigned. Hamlin didn’t play all that well last year and could be a salary dump. Unfortunately, there is not much there. The list of UFAs at Safety is as follows:
You might be thinking Free Agency would be a good place to look for a kicker. I wouldn’t disagree with that. And there are some very good kickers available.
Dallas will only be allowed to sign one Free Agent to a contract with a first year salary around $5.5M. They can sign as many Free Agents as they can handle at $3.7M or less. So, here's my recommendation. I think Dallas should go after a free agent on the DLine with their one large contract. The only three guys on the DL list that seem well out of our range would be Peppers, Wilfork, and Seymour. The rest of those guys seem like they might accept a contract in the $5.5M range.
The guy I like the best here is Aubrayo Franklin. He's played really well as a 3-4 NT the last few years in San Francisco. He's 29 years old, 6-1, 320 lbs. Last year he had 2 sacks with 35 tackles, 3 passes batted down at the line and an interception. The 35 tackles ranked 7th for a Defensive Tackle and 2nd for a Nose Tackle. He could spell Ratliff and even allow him to play End some. He would be a great addition to the line and could keep our starters fresh. You also wouldn’t feel like you were losing anything by spelling Ratliff like we did with Siavii. A 3 years contract seems about right.
I would also consider Casey Hampton. Obviously, he's well past his prime. However, in the case for Hampton, you would only ask him to back up Ratliff. Instead of the back-up playing 150 snaps like Siavii did, he could play around 250 and keep Ratliff fresh. We could also play some 4-3 goaline situations with both NTs on the field at the same time. I wouldn’t oppose a 1-2 year deal with Hampton. He might be the most decorated NT of his generation.
Kicker is another area in which I could see a signing. The prize of this group is Janikowski who had a great season in 2009. He's a bit of a head case, and I would be surprised if he's not re-signed in Oakland, but he would be worth a look. The rest of these guys would probably have to win a job in camp. Rackers, Graham, even Suisham have had their good and bad seasons. Most of these guys are ancient like Carney (45), Stover (41), and Elam (39.) Suisham is the only guy under 30. We might not want to admit it, but Suisham might be our best option again in 2010.