rabblerouser's latest front page contribution (Cowboys Offseason Plan: A Lot Of Holes To Fill) inspired me to come up with my own free agency plan. After getting it all out I realized it was far too long to post as a comment on the original story page. So, here I am posting my first attempt at a FanPost. Please be gentle with me. (And if you haven't done so already, do yourself a favor and check out rabble's take on the 'Boys offseason plans.)
As I was going through free agent lists I was imagining the team signing Carl Nicks, arguably the best OG in the NFL, or stud OLB/DE Mario Williams to be the long sought after bookend to Ware to form the most dominant pass rushing tandem in the league. But as I started evaluating the current roster, identifying where the most glaring holes are, and just how many holes there are, I began to wonder how many can be filled with ~$23M in cap space (after Newman's release). After daydreaming of a free agency haul of Nicks, Finnegan and Super Mario, reality smacked me upside the head.
The two weakest links on the roster by far were the interior OL (specifically center) and the secondary (specifically Newman) based on the grades from ProFootballFocus, not to mention the 'ol eyeball test. If all the 'Boys were to accomplish this off season is sign average players to man these two positions, these two changes alone would represent massive upgrades. These are obviously the two most important needs, but far from the only problems to be addressed.
A quality veteran center - like Chris Meyers (Hou) or Scott Wells (GB) - will probably get a contract in the neighborhood of ~$5-6M annually. Compared to the $9M per Nicks is expected to command, and considering the sieve the 'Boys had at the pivot, this is a far better allocation of limited resources in my mind. This allows them to address a far greater weakness for a fraction of the money.
The bidding for a starting caliber CB to replace Newman will probably start around $8M/year - at least (Joseph signed a 5-year deal worth $48.75 million, with $23.5 million guaranteed last year). Obviously, Joseph's $9.75M/year may be a bit (a lot) outside the 'Boys price range if they hope to address all of their pressing needs prior to the draft. With that in mind, hopefully they can sign a solid journeyman - like Stanford Routt or Tim Jennings - or a talented injured player that needs to re-establish their market value - like Tyrell Thomas - to half what they might expect to pay the top corners in FA. These may not be the elite players we'd like to see on the field (with the exception of Thomas when healthy), but any of these guys would be a huge improvement over the disastrous season Newman had last year.
With Bruce Carter still unproven and virtually no depth behind him and Lee, Dallas also probably needs to sign a vet ILB capable of starting to a Brooking-like contract (~$2-3M/year minimum). A player like Channing Crowder or Bart Scott (reports claim he will be a cap casualty of the Jets) would fit the bill. As for backup QB, if they deem McGee to be an adequate #2, they can find a #3 QB for the vet minimum. Otherwise, this may cost another ~$2M/year easy (Kitna made an avg salary of $2.65M).
Do they re-sign Spencer or Elam? If not, they'll need to sign their replacements. Ideally they'd be able to upgrade both positions, but realistically they should at least attempt to re-sign Spencer and replace Elam. Spencer wasn't great, but he was no liability. Elam on the other hand... Re-signing Spencer will probably cost ~$6-7M/year. Any more than that and you have to start considering other options, even if that means signing a less productive player. Dallas should be able to replace Elam with a starting quality vet - like Tyvon Branch, Thomas DeCoud, Mike Adams, Dwight Lowery, etc. - for around the same $2.5M he made last season.
Conservatively, between signing a C, CB, ILB, backup QB and S and re-signing Spencer, that's ~$23M worth of cap space in annual salaries. Yes, the team can and likely will design these contracts to be more cap friendly in the first year, but we have yet to address how much Laurent Robinson will cost to retain, or what to do at OG, or allocated any cap space for the incoming rookie class, or re-signed Fiametta, McBriar, etc.
That said, I would like to see the 'Boys round out their free agency spending spree on re-signing Robinson if his contract expectations are reasonable, and re-signing Holland to an incentive laden deal based on performance and conditioning as insurance. Holland actually acquitted himself quite well last season. Between him, the developing kids in the pipeline (Arkin, Costa, Kowalski, Nagy) and a reportedly deep pool at OG in this year's draft, we should have options and depth here.
This plan would give Dallas the greatest flexibility to draft the BPA in April. I'd hate to see the team pass on a superior player simply to fill a need. This is the blueprint I'm envisioning as I play amateur Cowboys GM anyway.