Approximately 200 hours into the official NFL off-season and I'm officially bored! This past Sunday was our first one without football and it was, indeed, found to be lacking. Not that there aren't 1,001 things to cover during this offseason, but I miss games.
With the Cowboys playing themselves out of contention before the calendar turned to November, it's been a while since I've had that feeling of child-like enthusiasm and anticipation that we grown-ups call fandom. Sure, I watched the playoffs, but even though there were great games littered throughout the tournament, as Bill Parcells would call it, things just aren't the same when the Cowboys aren't competing.
So, what will it take for the Cowboys to be relevant come January 2012? I have a list of five things left to wonder about in the offseason. Here is #5.
5 - How will the Cowboys navigate the free agency period, if there is one at all?
With last week's cancellation of preliminary talks midstream, and this week's owners meeting subsequently getting nixed, most pundits are now seemingly resigned to there being a lockout. There are many varying opinions on how that plays out, but the majority feel some portion of the NFL calendar will be interrupted. That can range anywhere from a delay in the onset of offseason activities such as free agency and mini-camps, all the way to losing an entire season.
If you weren't aware, the owners shrewdly negotiated a deal with DirecTV and the other carriers of games that the teams will still get their payouts without producing the actual product. Once you shed player salaries, it is reported that the owners can make it through an entire season of no football without losing money. (Side note, DirecTV is poised to potentially lose money and it's satellite industry stranglehold.)
Along with the angle of no football to be played, we also are unsure of how the salary cap will be structured, if there is one at all. Last week, our own O.C.C. reported that the Cowboys sit atop the rankings for money committed to players under contract. We don't know what the rules are going to be about shedding salaries. All those articles you see mainstream media writing about who will be cut? They have no clue - because if you do away with the salary cap, you can keep those under-performing guys to make sure rookie picks pan out. So that's a big series of questions that will in part determine the team's success next season.
Who will they keep, who will they target, how much will they have to spend, when can they start?
Here's a look at the free agent players on Dallas' roster heading into offseason 2010 and where they stood with the team at the time. Players that made the 53-man Week 1 roster are highlighted.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
CB/S Alan Ball (offered one-year tender)
LB Steve Octavien (offered one-year tender)
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
G Montrae Holland
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
WR Miles Austin (first- and third-round tender, $3.168 million)
S Gerald Sensabaugh (second-round tender, $1.815 million)
DE Marcus Spears (original draft choice tender, $1.226 million)
DE Stephen Bowen (second-round tender, $1.759 million)
DE Jason Hatcher (second-round tender, $1.759 million)
WR Sam Hurd (second-round tender, $1.759 million)
S Pat Watkins (original draft choice tender, $1.176 million)
C Cory Procter (second-round tender, $1.759 million)
DT Junior Siavii (original draft choice tender, $1.101 million)
K Shaun Suisham (not tendered)
OT Pat McQuistan (original draft choice tender, $1.176 million)
C Duke Preston (original draft choice tender, $1.226 million)
CB Cletis Gordon (re-signed to one-year contract)
Cowboys 2011 Free Agents
S Alan Ball
OT Alex Barron
DE Stephen Bowen
OT Doug Free
QB Chris Greisen
DE Jason Hatcher
WR Sam Hurd
OG Kyle Kosier
SS Gerald Sensabuagh
DE Marcus Spears
LB Leon Williams
For sortable lists of all players expected to become free agents once the CBA is worked out, check out this link here.
Stay tuned for #4.