This past MNF game has left me in a pretty depressed state. The Cowboys not only lost but also saw Tony Romo go down for the majority of the season that remains. As such, the season is more or less over in my opinion. This thought is of course quite objectionable to me so I have spent an inordinate amount of time lately thinking about this next offseason for Dallas. And out of that thinking, I have managed to put together a nice long guide to this Cowboys offseason that kind of outlines what options Dallas could be looking at and what I would do if I were the GM. So without further ado, I give you my 2011 Dallas Cowboys Offseason Guide.
Let’s start with just some factual information about which Cowboys will be free agents next year and then after the jump a list of possible hole-pluggers the Cowboys could look to from other teams in free agency.
2010 Cowboys who have expiring contracts:
- Sam Hurd
- Doug Free
- Alex Barron
- Kyle Kosier
- Marcus Spears
- Stephen Bowen
- Jason Hatcher
- Gerald Sensabaugh
- Alan Ball
Here is a list of guys who could be available in free agency Dallas might consider as hole-plugging possibilities:
- Logan Mankins, G
- Jared Gaither, T
- Carl Nicks, G
- Daryn Colledge, G
- Ryan Kalil, C – You could move Gurode to guard
- Evan Mathis, G – Could be a good guy if Kosier walks
- Aubrayo Franklin NT – Finally could move Ratliff to DE
- Johnny Jolly DT – Would need to be reinstated by the NFL but would be a good value pickup because of it
- Cullen Jenkins DE – Would be an upgrade at DE
- Josh Wilson CB/KR – Could be a good corner find if the team decides to go another way from Scandrick
- Daniel Manning S – Not going to be a huge upgrade, but at least he’s comfortable in that Cover 2
- Atari Bigby S – Could represent an upgrade although he is injured a decent amount
- There are a lot of kickers possibly available (Longwell, Crosby, Folk, Vinatieri)
All in all, I think it’s hard to look at this FA pool and call it great at the positions we need other than maybe the O-line (all of whom would probably be expensive). Of course, this pool will totally change by the time we get to the time to actually start making decisions. The important point though is that it looks like we will have to do most of our hole plugging through the draft (which is how it should probably be anyways).
What Would I Do?
This wouldn’t be too exciting of a post if I didn’t inject my own opinions into here. As such, I am going to go down the different facets of the offseason and tell you, as of October 31, 2010, what I would do.
Obviously this offseason in Dallas will likely start with a coaching change since I am going to pretend like there is no chance the NFL will not be playing football in 2011 (because honestly I don’t even want to consider how much that would suck). I could list out the top head coach candidates but that has already been done in some great fanposts so suffice to say that my favorites are Rob Ryan, Mike Pettine, and Brian Schottenheimer (I am a great supporter of Garrett but I think this team probably needs a totally new start). The first two could actually bring some unpredictability to our defense and Schottenheimer would be an offensive guy with a great pedigree (plus as discussed in the other fanposts Schottenheimer could perhaps bring Pettine with him).
Cowboys Free Agents
This might be the easiest part of the whole post. Off that list at the beginning of this post I would probably only keep Sam Hurd, Doug Free, Kyle Kosier, and Stephen Bowen (maybe Hatcher as well). The rest are clearly expendable in my opinion. Barron should almost certainly be replaced by a rookie on the roster. Marcus Spears is just a guy at this point and I think unless he is willing to resign for a relatively low amount that it isn't worth keeping him versus the other two since they play about the same amount of snaps. And as for the two safeties, I think we can definitely let them walk. Ball has shown to not be the answer at FS and unless he wants to resign as a 4th corner I say we let him walk for sure. Sensabaugh is a tougher question since sometimes he does look slightly above average and other times he looks really poor. Ultimately it will come back to what he is asking for in his contract, but I would be willing to let both him and Ball walk and try to roll with Church, McCray and whatever rookie we draft (more on that later).
These aren't the only guys who should be shown the door though. Examining the remaining roster, I would trim the fat off this team in several other spots:
- Leonard Davis - Maybe the easiest decision... Overpaid and under-performing... Holland could step in at RG and there would be little drop off
- Marion Barber - Lacks explosiveness... Well overpaid for the RB position... holds back Felix and Choice... Would love to trade him but unlikely to find a partner
- Keith Brooking - This year he has clearly regressed... Can't blitz or cover well... Sean Lee needs to get that job next year.
Other possible guys who could be cut even though I would probably keep them:
- Roy Williams: Not so much because of his play as his salary (although I think it is compensated for since we will be underpaying Dez for a while)
- Igor Olshansky: It would probably represent too much turnover at DE but his play has not been stellar and he offers pretty much nothing in rushing the passer
The next step in this offseason would be to look for trading partners for any other assets teams might be interested in. This leads me to my shocking move of the offseason:
I would trade Jason Witten. I know. I can't believe I am actually writing this. Witten has been a warrior for the Cowboys over his career and I always thought he was destined to be the next HOF Cowboy from the current team. The fact is though, once John Phillips comes back, we will have three extremely strong TEs and a guy in Scott Chandler who is decent enough as a #3 TE. Witten is going to be the guy we can get the highest price for and Marty B has played at a level equal to Witten throughout this season (Marty is the better blocker and has a higher ceiling as a receiver). I think the trade makes sense from a team construction standpoint since with our strong WR corps and other TEs we are holding on to too much skill position talent that could be used to address our many other needs. Hopefully, we can get an early second round pick for Witten considering the extremely weak class of TEs this year in the draft (although it doesn't help that there are some decent TEs who will be FAs). It hurts me to advocate for this trade, but I think it makes sense in the long run for Dallas.
The Buying Side of Free Agency
This is where I am probably most conflicted (other than trading Witten). On the one hand there are some guys who look like they could be decent acquisitions. The problem is that several of them would be available due to their cost and/or their injury history (Gaither and Bigby come to mind). As such, I would be weary of just trying to go out and throw money around in free agency.
Ultimately, if I had my way, the Cowboys' main target would be Aubrayo Franklin. He would be decently expensive and is 30, but I think he could be that bigger NT some of us have been looking for. I then would move Ratliff to DE (something I have supported for some time) where Rat's pass rushing ability could be best used and his career could be lengthened. I know this is a much-debated topic and I am sure many disagree, but I just think that Rat at DE would be better for the Cowboys and better for Rat in the long run. Alternatively though, let's say we keep Rat at NT. My main move would then be to go after Cullen Jenkins. He would represent a DE that could actually get sacks for Dallas and would provide Dallas some pass-rushing help.
Lastly, the other people I would at least target in FA would be Atari Bigby and one of the guards (Nicks would probably be most preferable even though he does have his warts). The one attractive thing about Bigby would be that he wouldn't be that expensive thanks to his injury history and I think GB will be willing to let him walk because of it. Bigby would certainly be one of those medium-risk, high-reward deals that Dallas might need to pay off anyways for this team to turn around. As for targeting a guard, I think we all understand that move since we could go that route to plug the RG spot left by Bigg or plug the LG spot if Kosier chooses to leave.
My Way Too Early Dream Draft
And finally we arrive at the fun part. Is it too early to make a team-specific mock draft? Yeah it almost certainly is. However, thanks to the Giants game and the subsequent depression, I feel like this is a good outlet for my natural optimism. As such, here is my Cowboys specific dream draft (assuming the Cowboys have a draft order position of around #5).
1st Round - Patrick Peterson CB, LSU - He is an absolute stud CB and could play FS in a pinch with his size. You simply don't pass on that kind of talent; especially when the value at our top need spots will suck in the top half of the first round.
Witten Trade Pick - Demarcus Love OT, Arkansas - Ultimately, some draft prognosticators think this guy will probably end up going in the late first round so we may never get a shot at him. In a dream world though he has the size and the SEC pedigree to be a great RT or G prospect going forward since it looks like Doug Free is our LT of the future.
2nd Round - Deunta Williams S, North Carolina - Often thought to be a 1st rounder before the season started, he could definitely see a drop in his draft stock after being suspended for the first four games of this year. The things to like about him are that he has started since his freshman year, played WR before S, and actually has had 3 or more interceptions in ever year. He is technically a FS, but he is actually 6'2", 210 pounds and as such I think he could play SS for us (about the same size as Sensabaugh).
3rd Round - Kelvin Sheppard ILB, LSU - Trust me, getting another ILB in the draft doesn't exactly excite me. However, our depth at ILB right now is really questionable. Brooking looks like he is probably done. Sean Lee has looked good at times but has been injury prone thus far. Bradie James has led the team in tackles for a while but is 29. Jason Williams has been training at the "Mo" position just like Sean Lee but hasn't seen the light turn on. Taking all of this into account, I think the Cowboys should be looking to find Bradie's long-term replacement. As such, what's a better place to look than Bradie's alma mater. I think Kelvin Sheppard could be that guy. He has pretty good size at (6'2", 240 lbs) and seems to have sufficient speed to possibly be a nickel guy.
4th Round - Stephen Schilling G, Michigan - At this point Dallas has to go back to addressing the offensive line. I think Schilling is that guy in the 4th round. He isn't huge for a Dallas guard (6'5", 304 lbs) but he has been a starter since 2007, is a pretty good technician at guard and has played both tackle and guard. He also was a Big Ten honorable mention in 2009.
5th Round - John Graves DE, Virginia Tech - We will in all likelihood still need DE depth after this offseason and I think Graves warrants a mid-round pick. He is a decently dynamic DT for Virginia Tech and at 6'3", 285 lbs. has the size to be a 3-4 DE.
6th Round - Lee Smith TE, Marshall - We must hold up the tradition of drafting TEs and I think Smith would be a good choice this late. He has great size at 6'6", 265 lbs. and was originally a Tennessee Volunteer.
6th Round (assuming Crayton gets to 40 catches) - Damien Berry RB, Miami - Not really a huge name coming into this year, Berry has put himself into the Miami record books by being the fifth Hurricane to rush for over 100 yards in four consecutive games (the other three were named McGahee, James, Portis, and gore). He is 5'11", 210 lbs. and would fill that #3 RB slot nicely.
Well there you have it, my 2011 offseason guide to the Dallas Cowboys. Once again, I did this out due to my depressed state about the current Cowboys so its quite possible I totally overlooked a player, need, etc. I would love to hear some peoples' comments about what I think and what they think we should do this offseason (other than just our imminent coaching change). Thanks for reading and here's to a Cowboys victory over the Jags (although a loss would help us in the Patrick Peterson sweepstakes).