It's been a whirlwind of activity for the Dallas Cowboys for the last two days. After the loss in Green Bay on Sunday night, the Cowboys find out that as the highest-seeded losers in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, their coaching staff gets to coach the Pro Bowl this year. Except most Cowboys coaches weren't under contract, and thus wouldn't have been able to coach the Pro Bowl.
Two days later, Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli are under contract, Scott Linehan doesn't appear to be that far away either, and most of the other coaching contracts are expected to fall into place soon. So much so that the league went ahead and announced that the Cowboys will coach one of the Pro Bowl teams.
Coaching at the Pro Bowl will be a fun and positive experience for the coaching staff, as Garrett pointed out yesterday.
"To get a chance to coach some of the best players in the league and interact with them, I think that’s a positive experience for everybody," Garrett said. "You certainly want to embrace that. It’s a fun week, it’s really, again, a privilege to be a part of."
But it also gives the Cowboys something else: The ability to work with, observe, and interact with some of the premier, soon-to-be free agents in the NFL. Obviously, the Cowboys know all about their own free agent Pro Bowl participants, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, but by my count there will be 10 additional players at the Pro Bowl who could free agents in 2015, as well as 20 players whose contracts are set to expire in 2016.
Here is an overview of the potential 2015 and 2016 free agents who have been nominated for the Pro Bowl. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).
|2015 & 2016 Free Agents at the Pro Bowl
|FB||John Kuhn||Green Bay||UFA||2015||32|
|OG||Mike Iupati||San Francisco||UFA||2015||27|
|WR||A. J. Green||Cincinnati||UFA||2016||26|
|WR||T. Y. Hilton||Indianapolis||UFA||2016||25|
Note that more players will be added to the Pro Bowl roster either as injury replacements or as replacements for Super Bowl-bound players, so additional pending free agents could still be added to the roster, just as the pending free agents from the two Super Bowl teams will not be at the Pro Bowl.
Also note that not all of the players on this list will be free agents at the start of free agency in 2015 or 2016, simply because their teams will have reached a contract extension with them by that point.
If any of these players make it to free agency, they will undoubtedly command a high price. With the exception of Brandon Carr, the Cowboys under Jason Garrett have not shown a propensity for going after high-priced free agents. But with a little more salary cap wiggle room in 2015, the Cowboys will certainly keep their eyes open, and the opportunity to get some hands-on work with a potential target at the Pro Bowl can only be a bonus in The Process.