After some speculation and mock drafting, I have decided to make a preliminary offseason plan for the Cowboys, including current roster/contract modifications, free agency, and the draft. This is only my first go and it will probably change in the coming weeks. Also, it really only encompasses impactful moves, and not many little moves such as minor free agent signings and UDFA's, Anyway, here's what I think the Cowboys should do , take a read!
Modding the Current Roster
These are the moves the Cowboys should make regarding their current roster in terms of cuts/trades/re-signings/extensions/restructures.
1) Extend Tony Romo. This is obviously the big one that everyone knows is gonna happen. This will reduce his cap hit by about 50%. This would be $8.4 million, but lets just stay a little bit on the pessimistic side as to not get overly excited and round that number down do an assumed $8 million. That leaves the Cowboys at $12 million over the cap.
2) Restructure Brandon Carr. Still leaching off the work of KD here, but this is also a necessary move. I expect Carr to work with the team and free up another $10 million with this move, leaving the Cowboys a comfortable-yet-still-uneasy $2 million over the cap.
3) Restructure Jason Witten. Witten will also most likely comply. This will give us another 3 million to work with, leaving the Cowboys at $1 million under the cap.
4) Release Dan Connor. not worth 3 million, especially in the Tampa 2, which requires fast linebackers. Frees up another $3 million, leaving the Cowboys at $4 million to spend.
5) Release Marcus Spears. Spears was expected to be on the chopping block last year, but remained on the roster. Spears will not be very much in the scheme and is getting old. Lissemore and Crawford are hungry for minutes behind him, leaving Spears as a casualty to gain $2 million. The Cowboys now have 6 million to spend.
6) restructure Doug Free. This will allow $5.3 million to shake loose (thanks again KD). I am actually confident Free will agree, because he will still be making some good money. He also knows that the other option is getting cut, and that no team would be stupid enough to invest very much money in him. The Cowboys will now have 11.3 million to spend in free agency.
7) This is a big one, but I think it is the right move. Trade Miles Austin to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for their 3rd and 4th round picks. (77 and 139). The thing is, I really like Miles Austin. He is more talented than the average wide receiver and has been a key in the offense pretty often. BUT, and it pains me to admit this but I must, I don't trust Austin. He misses too many big games and sometime disappears. He is also getting paid way too much to be the No. 2 wide receiver. This will give the Cowboys more draft picks to work with while adding 8.3 million to the spending allocate.
After these moves, the Cowboys will retain most of their key players, except Miles Austin, but will now have a healthy sum of $19.6 million to spend in free agency, minus the cost of the rookie class.
The Cowboys should be active in free agency once again this year, despite their previous predicament. The draft this year is loaded with talent, but the Cowboys should address some big needs in free agency.
1) The first priority should be to sign Andre Smith away from the Bengals. He is not elite, but he is very good. The Cowboys should lock up Smith for about 6.5 million the first year, leaving the cap at 14.1 while adding a very good new RT. Besides how cool would the tackle duo of Smith and Smith be?
2) The Cowboys next target should be Charger offensive lineman Louis Vasquez. Like Smith, Vasquez is not top tier, but he is also very good, He will be a huge upgrade over what the Cowboys already have and would turn this offensive line into a pretty competitive one, leaving one guard spot and center with question marks. in fact, I even think Nate Livings is serviceable at guard, and should remain with Dallas. The Cowboys are one center away from giving Romo a safe offensive line. Vasquez should cost the Cowboys about 5 million, leaving 9.1 million left to spend.
3) Sign Kenny Phillips. Phillips is a very good safety, who (IMO) is brushing on elite. As KD has mentioned, Phillips has shaky knees, but I think it is OK to take the risk considering that Matt Johnson will be there along with Sterling Moore to provide good depth. Phillips also doesn't have very good relations left with the Giants. He will probably cost 4.5 million. The Cowboys will now be left with 4.6 million in the cap.
4) Finally, sign a running back. My choice is Danny Woodhead. Woodhead is not a supreme RB, but he is versatile and will do very well as a complimentary RB to Murray. He has great speed and is a valuable punt returner, kick returner, and excels at catching the pass from the backfield. He would provide the Cowboys with someone who can be a change of pace, take almost 30 percent of the carries, and even come as a slot receiver in some sets. he would cost about 1.5 million. The Cowboys would have 3.1 million left to spend on their rookies.
After Free agency, the Cowboys have solved problems at offensive line, safety, and running back. The Cowboys still have needs going into the draft, but have some flexibility, and are not strapped to helping the offensive line.
As of now, the Cowboys have the following picks:
The Cowboys make a huge trade, giving away all 5 of their last picks (80, 111, 139, 144, 175) to the Packers for the 55th overall pick. After that transaction, the Cowboys now only have 4 picks:
18. Kawaan Short, DT: The Cowboys need a penetrating DT to help the front four apply pressure. Kawaan Short is just that, a defensive tackle that can get in the backfield. This pick is a bit of a reach, as he would probably go between picks 25-35, but the Cowboys don't pick again until 47. The Cowboys most pressing need is at defensive line and Short immediately upgrades the big ugly crew the Cowboys will employ on the defense.
47. Cornelius Carradine, DE: Carridine is a top DE that is a first round talent. However, because of a torn ACL, he will probably fall to the second or third round. This is also a reach, but Dallas should scoop up the great defensive end before any other team does. his injury may be a concern, but the Cowboys have two star players on defense with literally the exact same story: a first round grade, dropping due to a major injury. Those two studs Sean Lee and Bruce Carter aren't regrets right? The Cowboys are money when picking up first round defenders falling due to injuries. Carridine will instantly become a starter and allow Dallas to apply great pressure up front from the edge across from DeMarcus Ware.
55: Sylvester Williams. DT: The Cowboys need a big man that can play the 1-tech, and that man can be Sylvester Williams. He is big and can anchor the line, while opening up opportunities for Ware, Short, and Carradine.
77. Marquise Goodwin, WR: The Cowboys will be lacking another playmaker in the offense behind Dez Bryant. Dwayne Harris will be a solid No.2, but can't be relied on to stretch the defense or make plays. This is exactly what Goodwin will do. He will give the Cowboys a blazing fast, vertical or short route receiver who can take it home on any play. He will be a great compliment to Weapon X and if drafted, I can even see him becoming the second best receiving threat on the team. He will round out the draft for the Cowboys perfectly.
Training Camp Roster
Assuming the Cowboys make the move I hope they do, this is a depth chart of starting players:
QB: Tony Romo
RB1: DeMarco Murray
RB2: Danny Woodhead
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Nate Livings
C: Phil Costa
RG: Louis Vasquez
RT: Andre Smith
FB: Lawrence Vickers
TE1: Jason Witten
TE2: James Hanna
WR1: Dez Bryant
WR2: Dwayne Harris
WR3: Marquise Goodwin
DE: DeMarcus Ware
DT: Sylvester Williams
DT: Kawaan Short
DE: Cornelius Carradine
OLB: Bruce Carter
MLB: Sean Lee
OLB: Alex Albright
CB: Brandon Carr
CB: Morris Claiborne
S: Kenny Phillips
S: Matt Johnson/Gerald Sensabaugh (This is just in case Johnson cannot make a quick and smooth transition to starting safety
And there you have it. For me, that is the perfect offseason that Dallas could have, resulting in the roster above, and ultimately, a team that will be very competitive and greatly improved from 2012.