By now, almost everyone has heard of the Anthony Spencer franchise tag treatment. That automatically makes my previous blueprints irrelevant, as I saw the Cowboys allowing Spencer to walk and use the money elsewhere. Now, here is my new blueprint, considering the tag put on Spencer.
Current Roster Mods
1) Trade Anthony Spencer: That’s right, Dallas should not have him on this roster come free agency. I really love him and have always been one of the supporters through his disappointing years(ironic, as soon as he has a good season, I don't want him in a Dallas jersey anymore) but he is too expensive and not a good fit. Plenty of teams would be willing to trade a late pick for him, even if it is for one year. If Dallas trades him, they make profit because they not only regain that 10.6 million dollars, but they pick up en extra pick. I think we can make a deal with the Saints, acquiring a fourth round pick in return for Spencer’s services.
2) Extend Tony Romo: This continues to be a priority until it happens. Romo signing an extension will give Dallas a lot more wiggle room to work with in free agency by saving Dallas 8 million dollars.
3) Restructure Doug Free: Doug Free being cut will solve less problems than restructuring his contract instead. By restructuring, Dallas will actually have more financial flexibility as he will increase the cap by 5.3 million.
5) Cut Dan Connor and Marcus Spears: Both will be pricey backups, and in the new scheme which calls for fast defenders, they do not have a place. Spears is also getting old and slow. Combined they will save 5 million.
6) Cut Gerald Sensabaugh: In this blueprint, I have big plans for the safety position, and with the talent I will be adding paired with Matt Johnson, Sterling Moore, and Barry Church, Dallas will have enough depth as safety and a 1.4 million dollar Sensabaugh will no longer be necessary.
After the current roster mods, Dallas will have 27.0 million dollars to spend in free agency, plus an extra fourth round pick. Assuming it takes 4 million to sign the rookie class, Dallas will have 23.0 to spend on new talent in free agency.
1) Sign Donald Thomas: Donald Thomas is a highly underrated, highly effective guard who will instantly become the second best lineman on the Dallas offensive line. Thomas is not elite but he is very good and will come very cheap. He will upgrade either guard position and give Romo much more comfort in the pocket while letting Murray escape the backfield before meeting defenders. Cost: 2 million. Remainder: 21.0 million
2) Sign Gosder Cherilus: Cherilus is not a very young player at 28, but he is still in the years where he has 5-6 years left as a top tackle. Cherilus is not a big time elite player, but he is cheap, very serviceable, and better than any other RT candidate Dallas has on the roster right now. Cherilus will provide an instant upgrade next to Thomas and begin to really shape out this offensive line. Romo will be happy with these first two pickups, and financially, so will Jerry Jones. Cost: 2.5 million. Remainder: 18.5 million
3) Sign Brandon Moore: Moore is an aging guard at age 32, but he still has 2-3 good years left. Moore is also not elite, but he is a very solid guy, who just a couple years ago, was part of one of the best offensive lines in the league. He is a great veteran pickup who can take the opposite guard side from Thomas, and will be relatively cheap at 2.5-3 million dollars. Paired with Thomas and Cherilus, Dallas would have a good looking, retooled offensive line. Not perfect, but these three pickups would instantly give Romo much more time and vision in the pocket, while allowing Murray to be a 1K rusher that he can be. Cost: 2.5 million Remainder: 16 million
4) Sign Dashon Goldson: Goldson is not an elite safety, but he’s about at close as you can get without making the leap. He will be an unchallenged starter from day 1 and will bring a physical, ballhawking presence to the safety position Dallas hasn't had for a looong time. He has had 9 interceptions the past 2 seasons, which may not say Ed Reed style, but that is more interceptions than all of the Dallas safeties combined have had in the same time. Goldson will provide a big boost to the defense and paired with Carr and Claiborne, the trio could form a very solid looking set. Cost: 6 million. Remainder: 10 million
5) Sign Cliff Avril: Avril will be the Cowboys true “big” signing. Avril is a top tier pass rusher, and while he may not play the run as great as one would hope, it is an excusable shortcoming in exchange for his pass rushing prowess. Avril will be a monster threat across from DeMarcus Ware, and together, the two could apply the pressure Dallas really needs to force turnovers. If Dallas can add some talent to the interior of the line in the draft as well, Dallas will have a ferocious front four. Cost: 9 million. Remainder: 1.0 million
6) Resign Ernie Sims: Dallas will need some linebacker depth, and Ernie Sims can be a top candidate. He was unsigned halfway through the season. Dallas should be able to bring him back cheap, where he will be a great fit because he is athletic and fast, which is exactly the type of linebackers Dallas needs, and he has the versatility to play inside or outside. Cost: .7 million. Remainder: .3 million
After Free Agency, Dallas will have 4.3 million left to use on rookies, and will have filled many of their roster holes. This should allow Dallas to draft much more freely.
These are the Cowboys current picks:
These are the picks:
18. Kawaan Short: Dallas will still be in the lookout for a good, pentrating defensive tackle. In the 4-3, Ratliff projects better as a rotation/depth defensive ends. Short can be the guy from the inside that can get pass rush with the interior. He consistently grabbed the ball carrier in the backfield in college, and while at 18 may be a reach, he will not last until the 47th pick. Dallas needs defensive line help and Short can be the main interior threat for a decade to come.
47. Phillip Thomas: Phillip Thomas is most likely a third round pick at this stage, but with a rising stock, I am not sure he will last until the 80th pick. He is a great underrated safety who fits Dallas like no other safety in this draft. He is excellent in zone, which is how he will be utilized in Dallas. He is a ball hawk and a sure tackler. He has first round talent and will lock up the second starting safety spot next to Goldson to provide Dallas with a formidable secondary that was pretty trashed just a couple years ago.
80. Kenny Stills: Most see Stills as a fourth round wide receiver, but I disagree. Stills is fast and has relatively good hands, and I think he is very underrated. He will provide nice depth and can start if Austin goes down. He will challenge Harris for the third wide receiver spot and can take significant snaps for the offense. The Cowboys can use him as a rotation man to keep their wide receivers all fresh. Except Dez, of course, who could play at his current level even with a 200-pound harness on his back while attempting to eat the sun.
106. Khaled Holmes: As much as the Cowboys offensive line will have improved, the center position has been left alone. It still needs improvement, and in the fourth round, he should be available. Holmes will most likely not develop into a top tier offensive lineman, but if he is average at best, that is better than what Dallas has now at the center position. He can take the starting role, be a decent run/pass blocker, and be the final piece in giving Romo and Co. a solid, stable, and reliable offensive line.
111. Joseph Randle: Randle is a great running back prospect, which is a position of need for Dallas. Dallas severely lack depth at the position. Murray is injury prone, Jones is out, and Tanner has not shown much since his 2011 campaign. Randle is fast and shifty, and probably the 3rd or fourth best running back available this year. Because of mid round depth at running back, and some bigger names like Montee Ball and Stepfan Taylor available, Randle's stock could drop. That is only good news for Dallas, who can take Randle as a late fourth round steal. He can take significant carries from Murray to keep him fresh and healthy, and can be relied upon to start some games if needed.
144. Tharold Simon: Behind Carr and Claiborne, the Cowboys do not have a reliable corner that can start in case of an injury. Sterling Moore is a better fit at safety, and Orlando Scandrick is better in the slot, not so good on the outside. Simon is big enough and has the decent skills to take the starting role if someone gets injured. Simon is from LSU, so he generally might have a little edge over other defensive backs in the later rounds. Simon is also a former teammate of Morris Claiborne. I really like Simon here in the fifth, and think that he could even make a push for the nickel corner role.
175. Onterio McCalebb: McCalebb is not a big flashy name by any means. But he brings immense speed to the table, and with his vision and return skills, I would not mind drafting a player late just for his return ability. McCalebb is probably the fastest running back in this years class. His return ability is incredible, and Dallas hasn't had that in a long time. He can improve field position by himself. He is always a threat to take it deep, or even all the way to the opposite goal line. He can also be a valuable part of a Murray/Randle/McCalebb rotation, keeping everyone fresh and healthy. He provides much more than Phillip Tanner does, and I think Phillip Tanner is done as a Cowboy this offseason. McCalebb can be the new third running back in town.
Training Camp Starting Roster: After Final Cuts, this will be the week 1 opening roster (no injuries)
QB: Tony Romo
RB: DeMarco Murray/Joseph Randle
FB: Lawrence Vickers
LT: Tyron Smith
RG: Brandon Moore
C: Khaled Holmes
RG: Donald Thomas
RT: Gosder Cherilus
WR1: Dez Bryant
WR2: Miles Austin
WR3/4: Dwayne Harris/Kenny Stills
DT: (1 tech): Jay Ratliff
DT(3 tech): Kawaan Short
DE: Cliff Avril
ROLB: Bruce Carter
MLB: Sean Lee
LOLB: Alex Albright
CB: Morris Claiborne
CB: Brandon Carr
S: Dashon Goldson
S: Phillip Thomas
And that would be my dream offseason, making the Cowboys possible contenders once again.
Stats: Assuming the roster above
Romo: 5000 yards, 38 TD, 12 INT
Murray: 1150 yards, 4 TD, 25 rec, 200 yards, TD
Randle: 340 yards, 1 TD, 10 rec, 80 yards
McCalebb: 150 yards, 3 rec, 20 yards
Witten: 95 rec, 950 yards. 3 TD
Hanna: 40 rec, 500 yards, 4 TD
Bryant: 110 rec, 1450 yards, 12 TD
Austin: 65 rec, 900 yards, 6 TD
Harris: 40 rec, 500 yards, 3 TD
Stills: 20 rec, 300 yards, 3 TD
Ware: 65 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 3 FF
Ratliff: 70 tackles, 1.5 sacks
Short: 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks
Avril: 50 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 1 FF
Carter: 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF, 8 passes defended, 2 INT
Lee: 135 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 FF, 15 passes defended, 4 INT
Albright: 75 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 1 FF, 3 passes defended
Claiborne: 45 tackles, 14 passes defended, 6 INT, 2 TD
Carr: 55 tackles, 2 FF, 16 passes defended, 3 INT
Goldson: 65 tackles, 1 FF, 11 passes defended, 3 INT
Thomas: 50 tackles, 9 passes defended, 2 INT