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Improved Play & Health From Cowboys Veterans Could Offset Slow Offseason

If the Cowboys are to get any outside help for 2013, besides the draft, it will probably be some low-level free agents. One way they could improve, though, is through improved health and play of key vets.

Grant Halverson

The draft will obviously be key this year for the Dallas Cowboys with the total lack of free agent help expected for 2013. It's not like the cupboard is bare for Dallas. This roster has holes for sure, but they also have a lot of talent and they should be competitive. A big help will be the return of some key players.

Two obvious ones are the two guys in the linebacker corps, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. Lee is going to be huge component in this new 4-3 defense, but his injury history is a little worrisome. When he's on the field he's among the elite, but he has to stay on the field. Same with Bruce Carter who showed in his first real playing time that he's got the potential to be a star, but his injury history is also a red flag. Those two need to show they can make it through a full NFL season playing at a high level.

The return of Barry Church should also be a boost, as long as he can produce after rehabbing his Achilles heel. There's already talk about Church playing more in the box, if he can continue to improve his return solidifies one safety spot, keeping Danny McCray where he belongs, mainly on special teams.

The defensive line, outside of DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, is also an area of concern. Jason Hatcher will fit somewhere in that picture, but what Dallas really needs is Jay Ratliff to recapture some of his magic. Injuries have robbed Ratliff of his explosive play in recent years; if he's healthy, he should shine in the new 4-3. Freed up from constant double-teams, Ratliff can use his quickness and explosive power to disrupt the opposition's backfield. Bryan Broaddus is excited about the opportunity for Ratliff.

I believe that he could play either the one or the three and do it very well. From what I observed of him playing in the nickel as an inside rusher, there is no doubt if you let him get on the outside shoulder of the guard and let him get up the field as fast as he can, he will cause problems for the offense. I have always felt that he was more of a 4-3 defensive tackle than he was a nose, so this is a great fit. In this scheme, the defensive coaches want their guys to play with more speed and quickness which is right down the alley for Ratliff.

Another guy who is producing solid numbers, but sometimes is thought to be under-producing, is Miles Austin. He's another player constantly battling the injury bug, mainly with his hamstrings, but is still producing. Jonathan Bales has a nice breakdown of his numbers, here.

Sure, we're not going to get much help from free-agency, but if you think back to how many injuries the Cowboys played through last year, there's hope that improvement will come from within. Just getting some of these guys back on the field for an entire season should be a boon to the 2013 Cowboys.