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Cowboys free agent strategy in focus

Todd Archer (subscription) is digging into the Cowboys offseason free agent possibilities. First, let's take care of the ground rules. Free agency begins March 3rd, and if the Cowboys work free agency like last year, they will start signing players soon after that. So how are we doing with the salary cap? Archer gives us the skinny:

The Cowboys figure to have plenty of spending money - around $15 million depending on how much the salary cap increases and what types of cuts the team makes. The cap figures to be in the $92 million-to-$95 million range.

That's good news, we won't be short of cash and we won't have to make any dramatic cuts for salary-cap purposes. The Cowboys would like to get Dan Campbell and Scott Fujita taken care of in terms of their own free agents, with a tough decision on Andre' Gurode still to come. After that, it's on to the open market. Let's talk tackle:

The Cowboys have to decide whether they want to fork over another megadeal to an offensive lineman, as they have with Larry Allen, Rivera and Flozell Adams. Would Philadelphia right tackle Jon Runyan fill a need? Yes, but he is 32 years old. Detroit's Jeff Backus combines the best of youth and ability, but the Lions probably won't let him walk.

Jeff Backus is a name that keeps surfacing and seems to be an ideal target, still young at 28 and has started for the Lions since he was drafted out of Michigan. He's stated before he is tired of losing so he may be looking for a way out. Of course the Lions could put the transition or franchise tag on him, and now that they have a new coach we should start getting a better idea of what direction they are going.

My other need position for free agency is a kicker. The Cowboys aversion to high priced kickers has been well documented, but after last year's fiasco, the mind-set in Big D might be changing. Archer sets the stage:

Kickers will be available, but will the Cowboys go to $2 million-plus per year if New England's Adam Vinatieri becomes available, or would they look for a cheaper alternative in Ryan Longwell or Matt Bryant?

I still don't think NE will let Vinateri go. Once you get past him, either Longwell or Vanderjagt become the best options provided they don't cost too much. If their demands are extravagant, then move on to kickers like Matt Bryant or Joe Nedney. Whoever it is, let's not go into camp this year with an inexperienced, no-name kicker.

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