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Keeping the Team Pointed in the Right Direction

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I was researching 2006 free agents, since you can never be prepared enough, and noticed that Stephen Jones has some important decisions to make. Dallas has some key young players who are eligible to void the last years of their contracts and become free agents.

The full list of potential unrestricted free agents (UFAs) includes: OTs Ethan Brooks and Mark Columbo, OG Andre Gurode, TEs Dan Campbell and Jason Witten, DE Eric Ogbogu, LBs Bradie James and Scott Fujita and S Lynn Scott.

The list of restricted free agents (RFAs) includes OT Torrin Tucker, LB Scott Shanle and S Keith Davis.

Witten and James are the most important names here, as they are the players who would create the highest market demand. The November 21st edition of Pro Football Weekly notes that the Cowboys have a buy-back option on the last years of Witten's and James' initial deals. It would be surprising if they did not exercise the options and get these players locked up with new long-term deals. Campbell is another player the team will likely keep.

Gurode is the most interesting question in the UFA list. He's not the starter, but Dallas needs a quality backup, with Al Johnson's development and health still in question. If Gurode goes, the Cowboys will have to sign a veteran or spend a high pick on another center. They cannot go into '06 without options at center.

The restricted players will get tenders, but at what level? The most important name on that list is Tucker. He was maligned during camp but has played respectably since Flozell Adams injured his knee. As Tucker is proving to himself that he can handle the harder left tackle position, he would likely give Rob Petitti a run for the right tackle job next summer. Tucker also played guard in college and would be an option if one of the starters went down, especially since Stephen Peterman has been slow to recover from his major knee injury in '04.

Giants - Cowboys preview later today.