Jared Cook could be the tight end Martellus Bennett was supposed to be in Dallas.
As rabblerousr and I continue to look toward the future of the Dallas Cowboys' roster, we are beginning to focus on the 2013 NFL free agent market. Rabblerousr will be taking the defensive side of the football, while I will be detailing the offensive side of things.
Jerry Jones opened up his wallet this year and decided to spend some of his hard earned money in free agency. Jerry hasn't pursued the free agent market with this type of aggression in a long time. If you look at some of the Cowboys' free agent signings the past few years, you wouldn't be blown away by the names that were signed.
The aggressive approach taken in 2012 was a change in the strategy at Valley Ranch. With all of the hype surrounding a possible "closing window", maybe it was the right time for the Cowboys to go out and upgrade the roster via free agency.
While the Cowboys managed to make major upgrades to the roster in 2012, there may not be significant upgrades to the team courtesy of the free agent market in 2013.
Take the jump for more....
In a nutshell, the 2013 free agent class doesn't appear to be as rich in talent compared to the class from 2012. When looking at the offensive positions that the Cowboys will have free agents at, it gives us a better idea of what positions the Cowboys may choose to pursue in free agency. [This post has been updated to correctly reflect the free-agent status of Felix Jones, Kevin Ogletree, John Phillips]
Phil Costa is the starting center by default, and he is entering a contract season. He will have an opportunity this season to show the Cowboys that he is the long term solution for them at center, but the Cowboys could opt to find his replacement in 2013 through the draft or free agency.
The Cowboys had their eye on Unger back in the 2009 NFL Draft, and Unger was close to becoming a Dallas Cowboy until the Seattle Seahawks swooped in and drafted him two picks before the Cowboys went on the clock. With Unger hitting free agency in 2013 as an unrestricted free agent, the front office will get an opportunity to get the interior offensive lineman they have always wanted.
The Cowboys love versatility, and Unger can play either the guard or center position. He is a big center (6'5, 305) that would bring a lot of size to the center position that we currently lack, and Unger has fantastic technique.
Unger has been a staple on the Seahawks' offensive line ever since he was a rookie, but after starting one game in 2010, he missed the rest of the season with a toe injury. This could be the only marquee signing for the Cowboys in 2013, and while that may not thrill a lot of the fans, this is the type of signing that could solidify the entire offensive line.
The 2013 free agent center class isn't exactly loaded with talent, and Unger is probably the most recognizable center that will be on the market. If the Cowboys get a chance to lure him to Dallas, they should make sure he doesn't walk out of the Valley Ranch headquarters without a contract.
During the offseason, the Cowboys were interested in John Carlson (6'5, 251) and Kellen Davis, but both opted to sign elsewhere. The tight end position is a tool that Jason Garrett loves to use, so don't be surprised if the Cowboys look to add a tight end in free agency next year.
Even though the Cowboys drafted Oklahoma tight end James Hanna (6'4, 252) in the sixth-round this year, by no means is he a lock to make the team. Martellus Bennett (6'6", 296) was originally drafted to give this offense another weapon, but he failed as a receiving tight end. Bennett did become a great blocking tight end, and while that is something the Cowboys may look for as well, it's a lot easier to find blocking tight ends compared to good receiving tight ends.
With the success of the multiple tight end set in the NFL recently, it would make a lot of sense for the Cowboys to look for that added dimension to their offense in free agency. Fortunately for the Cowboys, there will be some really good receiving tight ends on the market in 2013.
- James Casey (6'3", 243 lb, 27 years old): The Houston Texan can do it all. He can be the blocker the Cowboys are looking for, but he brings the receiving dimension that could thrive in the system Jason Garrett runs. Casey is starting to grow as a football player, and I wouldn't mind seeing him fulfill his potential as a Dallas Cowboy. The Cowboys love versatility, and Casey has the versatility that would benefit this offense.
- Jared Cook (6'5", 246, 25): The Tennessee Titans should probably do whatever it takes to keep Cook a Titan, but they haven't had contract extension talks with him yet. Cook could be the player that Bennett was supposed to be offensively, but he has the size and strength to be a very good blocking tight end. Jared Cook is a freak athlete that has tremendous upside, and he would be my dream come true for the Cowboys' #2 TE.
- Dustin Keller (6'2", 250, 27): Keller is the preferred target of Mark Sanchez in New York, but he has never lived up to the expectations that he faces in New York. If the Cowboys are serious about looking for a potential replacement for Jason Witten down the road, or if they just want to bring in another receiving threat, Keller could be the perfect fit in Dallas.
Other than Unger, 2013 may not be a good year to look for a center in free agency. If the Cowboys could only afford one large signing on offense, then Unger would be my preferred target. I believe that he could become the elite center we have lacked, and he would thrive under offensive line coach Bill Callahan. It's a shame that Max Unger didn't become a Cowboy back in the 2009 NFL draft, but we could erase some of the awful memories we have from that draft class with the signing of Unger.
The tight end position will offer a variety of interesting options on the free agent market in 2013. Should the Cowboys choose to upgrade their tight end situation through free agency, they will certainly have options waiting for them on the open market. The problem will be money, how much can the Cowboys afford to spend on a #2 TE? If Jason Garrett absolutely needs another tight end to make his offense work, then it may be a good idea to sign a young player who already has experience.
Coming Soon....Part Two: Wide Receiver and Running Back