Will Big-Name Free Agents Be On Cowboys 2012 Shopping List?

Carl Nicks, Calais Campbell, Cortland Finnegan, Chris Myers, Cliff Avril.

All are big name free agents, and the fact that their first names all start with a "C" augurs well for the Cowboys, but is entirely coincidental. All have been linked to the Cowboys, often and repeatedly. And if the most recent Cowboys history is anything to go by, none of them are going to play for the Cowboys next season.

Last year, the Cowboys brought in free agents Abram Elam and Kenyon Coleman. The year before, they weren't active in free agency at all, and three years ago the free agent crop consisted of Keith Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh and Igor Olshansky.

What all the free agent acquisitions over the last three years have in common was that none of them were what could be described as the cream of the crop of their free agency class.

Overall, the five acquisitions were arguably closer to the bottom than the top of the free agent class at their positions. The table below shows each player's ProFootballFocus grade and rank in the year they reached free agency. Keith Brooking for example was given a -10.5 final season grade by PFF in 2008. That ranked Brooking 47th out of 55 4-3 OLBs that year. Kenyon Coleman is the only recently acquired player with a positive grade.

2009 Free Agents 2011 Free Agents
Brooking Sensabaugh Olshansky Coleman Elam
PFF Grade -10.5 -10.8 -9.6 +4.4 -4.0
Position Rank 47/53 78/83 26/28 19/42 60/85

If their recent free agent activities are anything to go by, the Cowboys may end up pursuing some pretty unheralded players in free agency.

Big-name free agents are what makes discussing free agent options fun. But when was the last time the Cowboys signed a big-name free agent that actually worked out? It may be time to get familiar with some of the lesser known free agents out there. Of course, the Cowboys may very well go out and sign some of the premier free agents available anyway. After all, they didn't shy away from going hard after Nnamdi Asomugha last year.

The Cowboys restructured the contracts of DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and Tony Romo last year to create some cap room specifically for this year. With what they carried over from last year and some additional restructurings, the Cowboys could easily have in the neighborhood of $20 million to spend in free agency this year.

In principle, the Cowboys could get any free agent they want. But will they? And more importantly, should they?

Come back later this morning as Tom Ryle looks at "Free Agency Priorities For The Dallas Cowboys" here on BTB.

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