The VRR: Cowboys Have Some Work to Do Before Free Agency Friday

With the NFL Scouting Combine completed, we can now turn our full attention to free agency. Tomorrow represents the deadline for teams to tender their restricted free agents. If they do not, at 12:01AM on Friday, March 5, those players enter the pool of unrestricted free agents.

Number of players the Cowboys have tendered so far: None.

Obviously, we should expect to hear some news regarding the Cowboys' RFAs soon. Hopefully, the team will begin its tendering with its highest profile RFA, Miles Austin. Though, Dallas does have history on its side, as it shows that the Cowboys have a good chance of keeping Austin should they offer him the highest tender.

Not many teams in league history have been willing to relinquish a first- and third-round pick for a restricted free agent. Almost none, in fact.

In 1998, Bill Parcells brought restricted running back Curtis Martin with him from the Patriots to the Jets. The Patriots were unwilling to match the Jets' six-year, $36 million offer sheet and took a first- and third-rounder in return.

Eighteen players received the high tender over the next 10 years. None were pried away by a rival's offer sheet.

More VRR after the jump.

Jerry Jones is adament that the Cowboys and Austin's agent will be able to agree on a contract.

"To some degree, there's some ambiguity [in the current labor climate]," Jones said. "But I don't know at the end of the day that you ought not to be able to overcome that and come to an agreement on his contract. You ought to be able to overcome that."

Austin's agent, David Dunn, said he has no worries about the labor uncertainty affecting Austin's ability to cash in big on his breakout season. He refused to talk about specific teams, but he believes there will be a healthy market for Austin in free agency, despite the seemingly high cost of first- and third-round picks as compensation for signing him to an offer sheet.

Let the "What Ifs?" begin! Here's one on why Dan Snyder should go after Miles Austin.

Even if the Redskins believe this is too much to give up in exchange for Austin, they should make him an offer anyway. The Cowboys can’t afford to let Austin go and have made it clear they have no intentions of losing him. By making a big-time offer, the ‘Skins can push their division rivals into a corner, forcing them to match the deal—while possibly overspending in the process.

The four defensive linemen that Dallas must make a decision on, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Junior Siavii could all receive tenders.

The Cowboys will probably tender all four of these players, but Spears, an end, was looking for a new contract after his rookie one expired following the season. Spears, a starter who had 50 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks and a career-best tying 16 quarterback pressures, should return.

The Cowboys will probably offer Spears, a five-year veteran, a first-round tender of $2.621 million for 2010.

The final numbers for the Final Eight Plan for signing free agents have been released.

For teams No. 5 through No. 8 (Chargers, Ravens, Cardinals, Cowboys), the Final Eight Plan carries with it an exception. A big one. One unrestricted free agent may be signed for a first-year salary above a certain number, and an unlimited amount may be signed at a first-year salary below a certain number, with limited growth in the future. The numbers have been finalized, finally.

For the former category, the first-year salary is $5,807,475. For the latter, it's $3,861,823.

So the Cowboys, for example, can break the bank for one guy, as long as he gets at least $5,807,475 in 2010 -- and then they can round up as many guys as they want at $3.86 million in year one and 30-percent growth each year thereafter.

Salary cap questions? Check out USA TODAY's NFL Labor Policies FAQs article.

The DMN continues its Best & Worst Cowboys free-agent signings series. #4 Worst: Marco Rivera.

He started every game in 2006 for the Cowboys, helping them average 25 points a game and lead Julius Jones to a 1,084-yard season. But in the playoff loss to Seattle, Rivera hurt his back. He stayed in the game and feared sitting down because he didn't want the back to tighten up.

Had the Cowboys beaten the Seahawks, he would not have been able to play the following week, and he needed help to get off the plane when the team arrived back home. He had another surgery on his back, and the Cowboys decided to cut him in June.

Postscript: Rivera retired after the 2006 season.

#4 Best: Ray Donaldson

Starting center Mark Stepnoski left after the loss to the 49ers and signed with the Houston Oilers. The move was something of a surprise because Stepnoski was so close with quarterback Troy Aikman and fullback Daryl Johnston. It also left a big hole in a veteran offensive line that was considered the league's best.

Donaldson stepped right in. He was bigger than Stepnoski (6-foot-3, 311) and experienced. He was 37 years old and had been in the league for 15 years when he signed with the Cowboys. Very few players would have been able to make the transition seamless. He did.

David Moore at the DMN speculates that Stephen Jones and the Cowboys will decide whether the team can go with younger players at certain positions.

"I think it could ultimately happen,'' Jones said. "It hasn't been decided, but it could ultimately fall that way. "I think we've got a lot of young players, if given the opportunity, would probably play better than most people think.''

Jones won't mention any names, but we will. Left tackle Flozell Adams and safety Ken Hamlin are likely to be part of this discussion as the Cowboys assess the upside of Doug Free and Alan Ball.

In this interview with SAEN, Tashard Choice wants a more prominent role in the offense.

"I love being in Dallas, but I just know I should be playing more," Choice said during an appearance at the Dallas Cowboys Grilling Products FanFest at the San Antonio Events Center. "When we lose and I don't get much of a chance, I'm sick."

[snip]

"All I look for is to help my team win, but there comes a time when you want more opportunities to run the football," Choice told the Express-News before Sunday's event. "It's nothing against the other backs, but I just know I can play. I just feel like I should get the ball more, that I should be in the offense more than I was last year."

Choice later told fans during a question-and-answer session that "there are a lot of teams trying to get me" because "they think I can be their featured guy."

Get up to speed with last year's top pick, Jason Williams in this Q&A. Here's a sampling:

Q: How did being able to watch Bradie James and Keith Brooking in particular help you during your rookie season?

A: Being behind those guys taught me what being a linebacker and a real leader is all about. I learned more just watching those guys than I did my whole college career.

Mr. Jerry Jones, should the Cowboys bench Roy Williams?

"No. No. A big no," said Jones, as if Williams' starting spot was untouchable.

Is Kevin Ogletree a lock to make the team?

"If he comes in and works as hard as Miles Austin worked, then he's got a real upside," Jones said. "If he kind of floats in and floats around during our offseason and [organized team activities], then he might not see a roster spot. I'm serious."

DC.com's Roster Rundown features everybody's favorite WR hopeful, Kevin Ogletree.

He's only improved since the first day he arrived and maybe he keeps this thing going all the way to a starting position. If not, the Cowboys would certainly be happy with him being the third or even fourth receiver. Really, it doesn't matter a whole lot because Ogletree has a place on this team.

Other than Austin, Ogletree is the second player with scary speed at wide receiver. And by the end of the season, it was clear the Cowboys were trying to take advantage of that.

Don't be surprised if the Cowboys try Ogletree out at punt returner this off-season to see if they can find more ways to get him the ball.

Patrick Crayton does not agree with the mainstream speculation that T.O. negatively affected the Cowboys' locker room.

"[Owens] didn't separate, because if we have a player-and-coaches-only meeting and it's supposed to stay in that room and it gets leaked out that evening and I hear about it the next morning, uh, we got a problem. And trust me, it's not one of the receivers or players... Any names that they said, you know, that was causing chaos, trust me, it wasn't any one of those players. And we located the mole."

Crayton refused to name the mole; but he did say that he remains friends with Owens, and would be open to a reunion between Dallas and the embattled receiver. It's just highly unlikely, given the emergence of Miles Austin in 2009.

Jerry Jones is excited for his team being selected to begin the 2010 season in the Hall of Fame Game.

"It's always an honor to be selected to play in this game," Jones said, per the Dallas Morning News. "More importantly, I really believe that having our players share in Emmitt Smith's Hall of Fame enshrinement should serve as an inspiration to every man on our roster, whether it be a 10-year vet or a rookie that's never played in an NFL game."

"I can't think of a better way to start the season from a motivational perspective than wearing the same uniform as the NFL's all-time leading rusher."

Could the Cowboys go with Bruce Campbell at 27? They seemed impressed with his combine workouts, but so was everybody else.

One Cowboys official said Campbell has the best body he's ever seen at the combine. He also ran one of the fastest times in the 40 among all the linemen there. A lot of mocks had Campbell late in the first. But he was so impressively physically, he may shoot up the charts and be gone before the Cowboys pick at No. 27. If he's not, he has to be in the discussion.

Peter Schrager at FOX Sports has the 'Boys taking Charles Brown in his Mock 3.0.

27. Dallas Cowboys Charles Brown, OT, USC A former tight end who made the move to left tackle in college, the 6-5, 290 pound Brown is one of the more athletic offensive linemen in the 2010 Draft. Though OT Doug Free played well for the Cowboys down the stretch, depth across the O-line is a major concern. My sixth-rated offensive tackle, the man who protected Mark Sanchez's blind side should sneak into the first round.

Mock Draft 2.0 Pick: Vladimir Ducasse, OT/OG, Massachusetts

The Shutdown Corner has the Cowboys taking a defensive back.

27. Dallas Cowboys: CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State -- Dallas has real needs on the offensive line, but the draft offers a better shot to take care of its pass defense. Robinson took a hit by being suspended during Florida State's academic scandal, but he's also rounded into a truly versatile defender.

BTB is taking part in a mock draft between blogs on a Browns' blog, No Logo Needed. The mock began on March 1st, and each team has 24 hours to make their picks. So far, Ndamukong Suh went #1 to the Rams, and the Lions followed that pick up with DT Gerald McCoy.

Here's a site that lists the 2010 NFL Draft's Traded Picks.

The Free Reign rockers are being nominated for the "Most Metal Athlete" honors. You can cast your vote here.

Speak Italian or Portuguese and a Cowboys fan? Below are two blogs that discuss Dallas Cowboys news in their respective languages.

Italian Cowboys Blog

Dallas Cowboys Brasil Blog

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