The Dallas Cowboys once again face the problem of what to do to improve on a disappointing 8-8 season. Already, we are putting together mock drafts to try to figure out who might be available for the Cowboys at the eighteenth spot.
But the team also has to decide what to do with a different eighteen, namely the eighteen unrestricted and restricted free agents currently on the roster. Here is a list (per ESPN Dallas) of the players whose contracts are now up (restricted free agents marked RFA on the chart). To save you having to ask the Google, RFAs are players the Cowboys can match an offer on and retain them. You can read more on it here. The others are all free to accept any offer they want, regardless of what Dallas does.
|LS||L P Ladouceur|
|C||Phil Costa (RFA)|
|SS||Danny McCray (RFA)|
|DE||Brian Schaefering (RFA)|
Obviously, not all free agents are created equal. The big name on the list is clearly Spencer. 2012 was the year the rest of the world got to see just how valuable he is. The problem for the Cowboys and their salary cap is whether they can afford the price. With DeMarcus Ware showing some of the wear and tear on him this year, Dallas really needs Spencer, but he is going to cost. If other teams get into a bidding war for his services, Dallas may be forced to use the franchise tag on him one more time - and that would cost on the order of $10.6 million. Given how badly the money may be needed to fix other problems, the big question here is going to be what the team can afford.
Outside that name, there may not be a lot of other players that the team really feels a need to keep. The only one that is certainly a keeper is the incredibly reliable Ladouceur, who is not expensive and one of the best long snappers in the league. Outside of him, most of the names on the list are not players the team cannot live without. Jenkins is the best of the remaining players, and I don't see the Cowboys getting in any kind of bidding war if he gets another offer. Except for the RFA names, I see no one here that the team absolutely needs. Coleman was missed on the line, but his effectiveness has always been as a run-stopper. Butler is one-dimensional the other way, only showing flashes as a pass rusher. Jones probably needs to move on and have the team look for a replacement coming out of college. The same applies to Ogletree, except his replacement may already be with the team. And Phillips may have been surpassed by James Hanna. As for Dockery, I would be shocked if he is still around for camp. With Dallas looking for all the cap room it can this year, I would expect the team to lean towards letting go rather than hanging on to players, even those who have been good in the past. The mediocre can figure on looking for new employment.
Some of the replacement players who came in will likely get an invite to camp if they don't sign elsewhere, but it will strictly be as a chance to earn their way onto the roster.
The three RFA names are a bit different. Costa has been injured a lot, but I would expect him to be in the mix at center again this year. McCray will almost certainly be back as a ST ace and backup safety. Shaefering may get a chance to return just because the defensive line is so depleted.
While, in my opinion at least, most of the Dallas free agents will not be around when the season officially begins in March, there are ten players who have been signed to "futures contracts", which basically are promises to sign with the team then.
|CB||Vince Agnew||Central Michigan|
|WR||Tim Benford||Tennessee Tech|
|WR||Danny Coale||Virginia Tech|
|DE||Ikponmwosa Igbinosum||Southern Connecticut State|
|TE||Andre Smith||Virginia Tech|
|QB||Nick Stevens||Tarleton State|
For reasons that many here may be aware of, I absolutely refuse to discuss the third name on the list. Most of these are players that the team has had some contact with, and they will get a chance to prove themselves. One of them, Brian Price, is a former second round pick and has a very interesting backstory. It is not for the faint of heart, because basically he had to have surgery to keep his own hamstrings from pulling him apart at the pelvis or tearing completely loose. If you have the courage, you can read the whole article. But if he is truly recovered, he may be a player to watch.
There is a lot of time now for speculation about all things Cowboys. Looking at these two lists, how many do you think are going to be contributing when the new season rolls around in about eight months?