I have made yet another blueprint for the Cowboys, and in this one, I focus more on bringing in cheaper names to fill holes that are still solid, rather than only 4-5 free agents with a couple big names.
Current Roster Mods: After the Cowboys franchise tagged Anthony Spencer, they are left at about 5 million over the cap. This is what Dallas should do to create as much cap room as possible:
1) Trade Anthony Spencer to Indianapolis Colts for 3rd round pick. The Colts have lost their best pass rusher of the past season in Dwight Freeney to age and free agency. The Cowboys have a 3-4 outside linebacker that is a phenomenal pass rusher and can be “the man” on defense for a team that needs him. The Colts likely won’t trade a first rounder here, but a 2nd or 3rd rounder is a definite possibility. This could be a round 2 pick, but I don’t want to have too high expectations, so for the purpose of this blueprint, they Cowboys receive a third rounder, while also ridding themselves of Spencer 10.6 million dollar cap hit. The Cowboys now have about 5.6 million dollars in cap space.
2) Extend Tony Romo. This is a huge priority for Dallas because not only do they need to secure their star quarterback for the rest of his career, but they need to free up cap room with which to add talent. Romo’s extension would buy Dallas about 8 million dollars, so the Cowboys would now have 13.6 to spend.
3) Restructure Doug Free: Doug Free is a nightmare on the line, and it’s for the quarterback. Free knows that his only choices this offseason are to redo his contract with the Cowboys and still get very good money, or get cut and not be paid any higher than an average benchwarmer. Which one would you choose? As long as Doug Free's brain works better than his arms, he should be able to do that math and stick with Dallas on a lower paycheck. The Cowboys save 5.3 million dollars, and have 18.9 million dollars to spend on new talent.
4) Cut Dan Connor and Marcus Spears. Both of these defenders are poor scheme fits for the new 4-3 defense in Dallas. A case could be made to keep Spears, but he is old and relatively useless. For line depth, the Cowboys already have Sean Lissemore and Tyrone Crawford. Spears is jacking 2 million to essentially be an old third stringer. Dan Connor is a decent linebacker, but in the new scheme, he will also be taking significant money to be a backup. He also does not possess the speed to be a quality member of this team. Dallas may need linebacker help, but a 3 million dollar Dan Connor is not the right type. Together, both of these moves will save Dallas 5 million dollars combined. Dallas will now have 23.9 million dollars to spend in free agency.
5) Cut Anthony Armstrong, Carlton Mitchell, Jared Green, Donovan Kemp, and Tim Benford to save 2.8 million dollars. Dallas will want to shave money from every possible corner, and cutting down wide receivers is a flexibility. None of these receivers contribute at all, and combined soak up almost 3 million dollars. Dallas doesn't really need them and if they are all gone, Dallas still has 5 receivers on the roster, and in my blueprint, will be adding a sixth through the draft. Dallas saves 2.8 million dollars and have 26.7 million dollars to spend.
After all of the above moves, Dallas will have about 26.7 million dollars to spend in free agency. The rookie class will take about 4 million, leaving Dallas with 22.7 million dollars in free agency, allowing them to be pretty big spenders and fill many roster holes.
1) Sign Donald Thomas: Donald Thomas is a great guard who has been a valuable starter in New England for quite a while. He has protected Tom Brady, and to even be a member of the Patriots offensive line, let alone a starter, you must be pretty freakin' good. The good thing about Thomas is that he is not a big name, and won't demand too much money. He will provide excellent value though. He is not elite, but he is solid and will be the unquestioned starter in Dallas, while solidifying the front for a pretty cheap price tag. Cost: 2.5 million. Remainder: 20.2 million dollars.
2) Sign Gosder Cherilus: Gosder Cherilus is a prime right tackle who is only 28 and is playing some really good football. Like Thomas, he is not elite by any measure, but he is a great value who can start and really begin to make this offensive line stronger. He has been serviceable for Detroit, and in Dallas will be another cheap starting option that will provide a huge upgrade on the offensive line. Cost: 3 million dollars. Remainder: 18.2 million.
3) Sign Brandon Moore: Brandon Moore is a pretty old guard, coming from the Jets. He is 32, but he is also another good value. I don't know if he would start, but he would be a valuable, versatile veteran who is a great blocker. He is better than any guard Dallas has on the roster right now, and even if he doesn't start, he will get some significant playing time if either guards or center is injured. Cost: 2 million. Remainder: 16.2 million.
4) Sign Ramses Barden: Barden is an undervalued, underused wideout from the Giants. He is very tall, and has the ability to be a quality No.2 wide receiver. Dallas likely won't use him like that, or even as the slot receiver. He is more of a guy who can be used in specific situations, and use his height (6 foot 6) to outjump defenders for high balls. He also is big enough to be a good blocker. He would take the No. 4 spot, but I would expect him to be a part of the offense and nab 1-2 receptions a game, while providing a threat in the pass game that can also block well. Cost: 1.5 million. Remainder: 14.7 million.
5) Sign Louis Delmas: Delmas is a young safety that can be a solid starter for Dallas. Delmas wants to stay in Detroit, but believes he is on the way out. Delmas provides Dallas with a safety that is young, but has good experience and is a great option to fill the hole Sensabaugh left. Like Moore, I don't think Delmas will be the right out starter; he will be brought in to be part of a rotation and provide young, veteran leadership. I also don't want to start him because of his shaky injury issues. Either way, I think it is a player worth overpaying a little bit for his value. Cost: 3.5 million. Remainder: 11.2 million.
6) Sign Delanie Walker: Walker is a tight end who knows how to play big. He has been to the NFC championship and Super Bowl each in the past 2 years. He is primarily a blocking tight end, which is a smaller need for Dallas. He will be a hotter commodity on the marker than some of the other names, so Dallas will likely pay him a bit more, but with a revamped O-Line and a great blocking tight end, Dallas should be able to have a great rushing attack. Cost: 2.5 million. Remainder: 8.7 million.
7) Sign Ted Ginn: Ginn will not be a big part of the offense, but will be a big part of the return game. He can spell Dwayne Harris from his punt return duties and allow him to focus primarily on being the slot receiver. He will also take over kick return duties and be the best kick returner Dallas has had in recent years. He is blazing fast, and is really just known for his return abilities. He also provides a veteran presence as a pass catcher. Cost: 1.5 million. Remainder: 6.2 million.
8) Sign William Hayes: With Anthony Spencer out, Dallas will need a good DE to play strongside, someone who can rush the passer and is a big man. Luckily for Dallas, there should be a small-name, cheap player available, named William Hayes. Hayes is a productive defensive end who recorded 7.0 sacks last year with the Rams. He will not be a game changer, but he will be significant in helping DeMarcus Ware rack up the sacks and put pressure on the quarterback. He will be the starter, and be brought in at a good price. Cost: 3.5 million. Remainder: 3.7 million.
9) Sign Danny Woodhead: This will be the Cowboys last free agent signing. Dallas needs a shifty running back, and Woodhead can come in to do just that. He is a good change of pace runner, as well as a valuable receiving option. He will be splitting carries with Murray and possibly another back, allowing Dallas to run with fresh legs consistently while limiting injuries. Cost: 2 million. Remainder: 1.7 million.
After all of these moves, Dallas will have filled many of their roster holes with good quality players, while still keeping 5.7 million dollars to sign their crop of rookies.
Going into the draft, Dallas will have the following picks:
18. Kawaan Short: Dallas needs a disruptive tackle to play in the middle and help the ends bring pressure into the backfield and collapse the pocket. Short excels at pass rushing from the interior, and is great and bringing the heat inside. He plays the run well, and can be the 3-tech for many years to come in Dallas.
47. Phillip Thomas: Dallas will still be pretty thin at safety. Not in terms of depth, but in terms of talent. Thomas is a great stud safety who plays best in zone and is a true ballhawk. Dallas really needs a player like him, and he is (IMO) the best fit safety for Dallas in this draft. He would be starter for one safety spot, while Johnson, Church, and Delmas would compete for playing time at the other spot. With Church Johnson, and Delmas on the roster, Dallas would have great depth and a nice rotation going to give the starters breathers, while still keeping talent good enough to get by with on the field.
80. Dallas Thomas: Dallas Thomas is a good prospect that can play either tackle or guard. Dallas can go into 2013 with the free agents and be well off up front, but the best teams are built through the best lines. Thomas will be the favorite for one guard spot, with Moore either challenging or being very valuable depth. You can bet Romo and the RB's will be very happy with the newly tooled offensive line.
86. Sylvester Williams: The Cowboys should be on the lookout for a 3-tech DT to play next to Short. Ratliff has been serviceable, but I like him better as a rotational DE with Hayes. Williams can become the big space eating run stuffer Dallas will need. He can start immediately and give Dallas one hell of a defensive front with Williams, Short, Ware, and Hayes.
111. Joseph Randle: Randle is a great running back who can be a change of pace for Murray and Woodhead. He can provide the breather, and if Murray misses some games, Randle can be the primary backup to Woodhead.
144. Tharold Simon: The Cowboys will need some cornerback depth behind Carr and Claiborne. Scandrick is good in the slot, but I'm not comfortable with him starting on the outside. Simon is bigger and can deal with playing on the sidelines against big receivers. He is also fro LSU, which gives him a slight DB advantage in the later rounds. He can be a key backup, and maybe even challenge Scandrick for the slot corner role.
175. Tom Wort: The Cowboys will need some linebacker depth behind Lee and Carter. The sixth round is not the best place to look for key depth, but the Cowboys will not be able to do everything this offseason. I like Wort's ability to read plays and think he can be valuable on special teams, and hold his own as a backup.
If the Cowboys implement the above moves, this is what the starting depth chart will ideally look like:
QB: Tony Romo
RB: DeMarco Murray/Danny Woodhead
FB: Lawrence Vickers
LT: Tyron Smith
LG: Dallas Thomas
C: Phil Costa
RG: Donald Thomas
RT: Gosder Cherilus
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Miles Austin
SLOT: Dwayne Harris
DE: DeMarcus Ware
DT (1 tech): Sylvester Williams
DT (3 tech): Kawaan Short
DE: William Hayes
LOLB: Bruce Carter
MLB: Sean Lee
ROLB: Alex Albright
CB: Morris Claiborne
CB: Brandon Carr
S: Phillip Thomas
S: Barry Church
KR: Ted Ginn
PR: Ted Ginn
K: Dan Bailey
P: Chris Jones
Stats: This is just for fun
Romo: 5200 yards, 38 TD, 9 INT
Murray: 1150 yards, 4 TD, 25 rec, 300 yards, 1 TD
Woodhead: 300 yards, 2 TD, 35 rec, 350 yards, 2 TD
Randle: 150 yards
Vickers: 15 yards, 10 rec, 80 yards
Witten: 95 rec, 1000 yards, 4 TD
Hanna: 45 rec, 550 yards, 3 TD
Bryant: 105 rec, 1450 yards, 11 TD
Austin: 64 rec, 960 yards, 6 TD
Harris: 45 rec, 600 yards, 4 TD
Barden: 20 rec, 220 yards, 1 TD
Ware: 65 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 3 FF
Williams: 40 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 pass defended
Short: 45 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 1 pass defended
Hayes: 75 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 2 FF
Carter: 80 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 FF, 8 passes defended, 2 INT
Lee: 135 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 4 FF, 14 passes defended, 4 INT
Albright: 70 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 5 passes defended
Claiborne: 45 tackles, 11 passes defended, 5 INT, TD
Carr: 60 tackles, 16 passes defended, 4 INT, TD
Thomas: 55 tackles, 8 passes defended, 5 INT
Church: 85 tackles, 8 passes defended, 2 INT
Ratliff: 15 tackles, 2.0 sacks
Hatcher: 15 tackles, 2.5 sacks
Lissemore: 10 tackles, 1.5 sacks
Johnson: 10 tackles, 3 passes defended, INT
Delmas: 20 tackles, 7 passes defended, INT
Crawford: 25 tackles, 4.5 sacks
Sims: 20 tackles, 1 pass defended
Simon: 30 tackles, 5 passes defended, INT