The last time the Cowboys made the the playoffs was the 2009 season. When training camp starts in 2014, I expect four players to be left from that roster.
Here are the players left from 2009 that were on the roster in 2013
That was 8 starters and a nickel CB (that turned into a starter this year). That core was still expected to be a huge part of this Cowboys team this year. After a disastrous season of injuries, that core is going to be transformed into a few holdouts. This will be completely new team next year.
Three expected starters on the defensive line will be allowed to enter free agency or have already left:
Here are the players I fully expect to get cut:
We may potentially have a completely new starting defensive line next year. Ouch. This is what 2010 was to the Offensive line. An incredible show of decline that is getting fixed a year too late.
After looking over the roster, I think the Cowboys need to get serious about the fact that this team isn’t a contender anymore. This is a team with a defensive line that imploded on them and a weak LB corps. Given the salary cap situation that keeps them from fixing holes with free agency, it’s hard to see how they can fix this team in one offseason. I think management should take a longer term perspective and make smart decisions that will put them in a good position for the 2015 season.
Tony Romo’s contract demands that he be here through 2015. We just have to roll the dice on that one and hope that he maintains a high level of performance despite his back surgery. Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick are still young enough to stick it out.
What about Jason Witten? He had a good year this year, but his contract is considered the 2nd highest for a tight end by overthecap.com. Also the man isn’t getting any younger. It seems reasonable to expect him to do well next year, but what about 2015? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this would actually be a good time to capitalize on his good year and shop for a trade partner before Witten actually loses his value.
I don’t think we would get a whole lot considering the size of Witten’s contract and his age, but someone out there may think he is the last piece of the puzzle and give us a nice 2015 draft pick. It would be better than simply cutting him and it would be better than restructuring Tony Romo’s contract to get under the cap this year. It would hurt to see him go like that, but I can see some clear benefits for the team. Witten will probably stick it out in 2014, but we need to savor every play we get from him because his contract demands the he perform at a probowl level and I don't know how much longer he can do anything close to that.
So there you have it. This team is going to be completely re-shaped from the Wade Phillips heyday next year. It may not be completely recovered, but it will be a team that has no collective memory of beating the Eagles in the playoffs. This is a new generation with a new identity.