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The VRR: Poring Over the Cowboys' Team Needs

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Where do the Cowboys need to improve to take the next step in 2010? That is the burning question.

First on many of our minds, is that they need to get younger on the offensive line. In house, we had the privilege of seeing Doug Free prove to be a starting caliber player. But will he start next season, and if so, at what position?

The unknown potential of last year's third round pick, Robert Brewster, is also intriguing. Because we never got to see him play as a rookie, we don't know how much competition he will be for incumbent starting LG Kyle Kosier. All we have to go by with Brewster is hope that he learned some about the pro game during his "redshirt" year - enough to improve upon his scouting report.

Positives: Good initial quickness off the snap, lateral agility and flexibility for the cut block. Can get out and run to make blocks at the second level. Good initial pop. Can turn the defender and seal. Flashes some nastiness and looks to finish his opponent when he feels vulnerability. Bends naturally at the knees and eases out of his stance fluidly with the balance to mirror defenders.

Negatives: Operates out of the spread and is rarely asked to block out of a three-point stance. Inconsistent hand punch. Only marginal hand quickness. Will allow his hands to get outside the chest-plate when run blocking. Lacks the strength to consistently sustain.

More VRR after the jump.

ESPN Dallas continues its Cowboys position series with the interior linemen. Today, Tim MacMahon stated that the guard and backup center spots could be a focus for the draft.

They need to find a replacement for Kosier, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. That might end up being Robert Brewster, the third-round pick who worked at right tackle last offseason but missed his rookie season with a torn pectoral.

But it’d be surprising if the Cowboys don’t address the guard position early in the draft. Idaho’s Mike Iupati would be a great fit, but he’s expected to be off the board by the time the Cowboys come on the clock at No. 27.

The Cowboys could also draft a center to compete with Procter, who made $1.54 million last season, as Gurode’s backup. This would be a good time to begin grooming an eventual replacement for Gurode, who turns 31 in March.

Before we enter the excitement of free agency on March 5th, the Cowboys need to figure out which of their own players they want to keep. Even though the offensive line can use some depth, keeping Montrae Holland doesn't sound like a long-term solution. At wide receiver, they should do what it takes to keep Miles Austin around.

On defense, choices will have to be made at defensive end. Three of their players, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen, and Jason Hatcher will either receive tenders or become unrestricted free agents on March 4th. At safety, Gerald Sensabaugh ought to get tendered unless the team has its heart set on a change there.

Matt Mosely breaks down the NFC East free agents, beginning with Dallas.

Unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland

Key figures: The Cowboys don't have a huge interest in retaining Holland, a man who's never really challenged for playing time. But Dallas has a long list of restricted free agents because of the likely scenario of an uncapped 2010 season.

Wide receiver Miles Austin is obviously the biggest name on the list. The Cowboys would like to get a long-term contract done, but Austin's going to be asking for big money after his breakout season. For now, the Cowboys will likely sign Austin to the highest tender, which would pay him roughly $3 million in 2010.

There's also a chance Dallas will try to work something out with restricted free agent Marcus Spears. Owner Jerry Jones has been very complimentary of Spears' work in '09, so we'll see if he receives an extension. It will also be interesting to see whether the Cowboys reward safety Gerald Sensabaugh for a fine '09 season. He's seeking a multiyear extension. But with the potential of a lockout in 2011, negotiations are up in the air.

By next month, it looks as if Dallas will have to throw money at wide receiver, defensive end, and safety. When free agency opens, perhaps they will think about throwing out more towards the offensive line. And what about finding a solid backup to NT Jay Ratliff? Admittingly, the thought of the team bringing back Jason Ferguson to back up Ratliff has ran across my mind. Josh Ellis speculates on why the team would make such a move.

On March 4, the five-year, $21 million contract he signed with the Cowboys back in 2004 will expire. Considering his advanced age (now 35), and the fact he's coming off an ACL tear, Ferguson could fit under the $3.7 million exception.

The Cowboys rolled the dice last year by going with Junior Siavii as Jay Ratliff's backup at nose tackle, and while the former Chiefs second-round pick was serviceable in his first season back from three years out of football, there were some games when he hardly saw the field on defense.

The more pedigreed Ferguson could be an upgrade if he still wants to play, and his knee checks out OK.

Even if the Cowboys do re-sign Sensabaugh, finding a safety - whether it be to compete for a starting position or to develop as a back up - could also be a priority in the next couple of months. The DMN compiled some of the mock drafts that are out there. Earl Thomas, the safety from Texas, is a name that has been popping up lately as the Cowboys' first round pick. - FS Earl Thomas (Texas): Not only did the Cowboys rank 20th in the league in pass defense but they were also 26th in interceptions so a playmaker like Earl Thomas of Texas would be a welcomed addition. The Longhorns usually do a good job of keeping their underclassmen in school but Thomas was coming off such an impressive redshirt sophomore campaign that he just couldn't resist the lure of the pros. Thomas doesn't have great size but he is very athletic and rangy with a nose for the ball and a real playmaking streak. – FS Earl Thomas (Texas): The inability to cover the deep middle exposed the Cowboys' defense against the Vikings in the playoffs, and Thomas' range and playmaking ability on the back half could complete the defense. – FS Earl Thomas (Texas): The 'Boys often expect their safeties to run with receivers in tight man-to-man coverage and this could be the best safety in this class at achieving that. Another possibility here is Bruce Campbell, but we'll stick with the best player on our board.

Here's who Mocking Dan at SBN's has the Cowboys taking in the first two rounds.

27. Mike Iupati | Guard | Idaho: Kyle Kosier is decent at left guard but Iupati would be a huge upgrade. He perfectly fits the Dallas power blocking scheme. Even more importantly, he would add some nastiness to the Cowboys line.

59. Nate Allen | Free safety | South Florida: It's been known for several years that the Cowboys need a playmaking free safety. Ken Hamlin may have been given a long-term contract, but he's not the answer. Allen has a nose for the ball and can help in all facets of the game.

USAToday named Anthony Spencer to its 2009 "All-Joe" team.

OLB: Tamba Hali, Chiefs— No All-Joe team would be complete without a member of the Chiefs, and Hali smoothly slid from 4-3 end to 3-4 backer and responded with a career bests for sacks (8.5) and tackles (66). Anthony Spencer, Cowboys— When this 2007 first-rounder took off, so did the Cowboys. All six of his sacks came in the final six games. Daryl Smith, Jaguars— Defensive captain made 107 stops while playing inside and out.

Nick Eatman describes what kind of players make up the traditional All-Joe team.

In case you’re not familiar with this team, which has been going now for 18 seasons, it consists of players who are not exactly household names and rather underappreciated, undervalued, underpaid or all of the above.

Lack of points this past season? Time to blame that on slow starts out of the, locker room.

On the opening possession of each half during the regular season, the Cowboys produced only 44 points with five touchdowns. That tied Houston for the eighth-lowest total in the category. Seattle had the fewest points, with 20.

The three highest-scoring teams on the first possession of the halves were also conference finalists. Minnesota led, with 95 points and 11 touchdowns. Super Bowl champion New Orleans was second with 89 points, and Indianapolis was third with 86.

After the Cowboys cut Nick Folk, they brought in some kickers to compete for the job. Recently signed futures prospect, Connor Hughes, said that he had the best workout that day...even better than Shaun Suisham's.

"I was invited to work out a few weeks ago with four other guys, and despite doing the best, my lack of experience was a concern for them. I guess they didn't feel comfortable with how he [Suisham] finished the year and decided after the season to give me a shot. I thought it might happen but had no real guarantees."

The Dallas Morning News compiled its special teams rankings. The Cowboys came in at number four.

The league's 32 teams are ranked in 22 categories and assigned points according to their standing – one for the best, 32 for the worst. The Browns finished first in special teams with a composite score of 215.5 – a whopping 41 points better than runner-up Tampa Bay.

Four division winners finished in the top 10 in special teams: No. 4 Dallas, No. 7 San Diego, No. 8 Arizona and No. 9 Minnesota. The New Orleans Saints finished 29th – the worst ranking ever for a Super Bowl champion.

The NFL released the schedule for the college Pro Day workouts. They will begin March 4th.

Jason La Confora has Dallas finishing as a top eight team again next year.

8. Dallas Cowboys - The Cowboys are poised to be a real postseason factor in a year in which they host the Super Bowl. Wouldn't that be something?

You can rank how each team finishes next year here on NFL Fan Rankings. Cowboys #1!

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