Whether you agreed, or disagreed, with the Cowboys decision to release DeMarcus Ware, you have to agree that it has left a void at defensive end. So how can Dallas remedy that? One way is through the draft. But for our purposes today, we'll look at remaining free agents.
First, let's look at what's left on the roster.
George Selvie - Had a breakout season in 2013 under Rod Marinelli's tutelage, could he improve even more in 2014? Definitely a serviceable starter.
Tyrone Crawford - Versatile, could be an end or a tackle. Recovering from major injury. The mothership reports:
He should be in good shape to return for the offseason. That’s a tough injury to rehab from but don’t forget Barry Church did it and had no visible setbacks. Crawford’s versatility is valuable because he could play DT or DE, just depending on the personnel around him. I think he’s a defensive tackle, but he could move out to end.
Jeremy Mincey - Newly signed, you can read up on him here.
After that, some bodies but not impact players. On to the free agents.
Anthony Spencer - Spencer remains on the Cowboys radar, but he's now starting to visit with other teams. OCC noted his upcoming visit with the Redskins, but one particular piece of that article is significant and bears repeating.
Spencer is still recovering from the surgery, though he's running now. But he isn't expected to be 100 percent ready by the opening of training camp.
If that's true, it's going to drive down his price, he may end up back in Dallas by default.
Julius Peppers, Jared Allen - I lump them together because like Ware, they are very accomplished players reaching the end of their careers. If the Cowboys are patient, it's possible they could get one of them on the cheap. Don't believe it? Last year two guys who were in very similar situations were signed cheap.
John Abraham officially signed a two year contract worth $4.6 million with the Arizona Cardinals. The only guaranteed portion of the contract is a $1 million dollar signing bonus that is prorated for two years for salary cap purposes. Abraham is also due a $100,000 roster bonus which I would assume is for games active. Abraham’s 2013 salary is $1 million, making his cash takehome in 2013 just $2.1 million. In 2014 Abraham will carry a non guaranteed base salary of $2.5 million.
Abraham was a steal who finished the season with 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
On the other hand, while Dwight Freeney's contract was reasonable:
Freeney's contract is for two years and has a base value of $8.75 million, league sources told ESPN's Ed Werder. In 2013, he will make $5.75 million, including a $3.25 million signing bonus and $1.5 million in base salary, the sources said. The deal includes an estimated $4.5 million incentive package over the two years.
He ended up with a season-ending injury after one month.
Peppers is interesting given his connection to Rod Marinelli. And while he's old, he hasn't been injured a lot and his production isn't that bad.
Julius Peppers [is] coming off a down year in which he contributed 7.5 sacks after back-to-back seasons of 11-plus sacks. Carrying Peppers into the 2014 season would have cost the Chicago Bears a base salary of $13.9 million, and a salary-cap hit of $18.183 million. The decision to terminate Peppers’ contract clears $9.8 million in cap space for 2014. In four years playing for the Bears, Peppers started in every game (64), racked up 37.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl in every season with the team except for 2013.
The Cowboys are trying to get younger, but if Peppers ends up like Abraham, unisgned deep into the offseason, there may be an option. The same could be said of Jared Allen.
Justin Tuck - Word was a team offered Tuck something in the range of $3 million per season. Tuck is visiting other teams. He looked like he could be done until he went on a tear towards the end of the season and ended up with 11 sacks.
Okay, don't like the grandpa's? How about something with a little less tread on the tires.
Corey Wootton - Another Bear, Wootton has shown potential but has been hampered by injuries. He thinks he's got that cleared up now and is versatile, playing both tackle and end.
At 26, Wootton figures to get considerable interest once the negotiating window opens Saturday (free agents can’t sign until next Tuesday). The only thing preventing him from being highly sought-after is his health. Wootton had surgery on his right hip in early January to correct a problem that had been nagging him for two seasons. But Wootton is on track to be ready when training camps open, proudly saying he’ll be 100 percent by July.
Willie Young - An under-the-radar guy who could be a find.
[UPDATE] Scratch Young off the list, he signed with the Bears. [END UPDATE]
The Lions were high on Young the past few seasons, but he registered just six sacks across his last 46 games. He started 15 games mostly at left end last season and generated an impressive 48 hurries, which was third-most among 4-3 ends. Disruption is production.
Robert Ayers - Had his best season last year with 5.5. sacks for the Broncos. The Cowboys already poached Jeremy Mincey, could they go back to the well again?
So BTB, looking at those options, what would you do? Anybody there you feel confident about? Any interest in the greybeards? Give us your opinion.