Some well-known NFL names are starting to show up as being released by their teams. With free agency still days away, teams now can start looking at specific options for filling gaps on their roster. In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys have sought out low-cost free agents to make sure they had their needs filled before the draft, allowing them to seek out the best players when they go on the clock without being handcuffed by need.
The Cowboys will likely be most interested in defensive linemen, particularly pass rushers. And with the questions about DeMarco Murray's and Joseph Randle's futures with the team, they also will probably be at least considering the running backs that are available.
Some of the major names that have already been released by their teams are Chris Canty, Mathias Kiwanuka, Stephen Bowen, Steven Jackson, Peyton Hillis, and Reggie Bush. There are many more free agents in the league, of course, but a lot of those will be re-signed by their own teams. Ones that have been already released are now known to be available. This list will certainly grow. It is a reflection of the salary cap era, where teams need to free up space and can get much more bang for their buck with young players on rookie contracts. Dallas will be making its own cuts soon, and on March 10 the list will grow tremendously as teams decide who they will let enter free agency without an offer.
For the Cowboys, the more free agents the merrier, and the early list of released players is a good sign that things will be quite merry this year. The draft is seen to be deep in defensive linemen and running backs, which will make it more likely that the pool of available free agents in those positions will just grow. That fits the strategy in Dallas perfectly.
The Cowboys are not going to be looking for long-term solutions in free agency, and can be expected to take a wait and see approach like they have in the past few seasons. They want to rent players, not make long-term commitments. The blueprint they will want to use is the deal the team reached with Henry Melton last year. They brought him in on a one-year deal with an option to sign him for longer if he completely resurrected his career. That of course did not happen. The team declined the option and freed up millions in cap space. They will want to let the market settle down and then find players who are willing to come in and compete for a roster spot. And the team has to be very clear that the player will only be in the mix, not assured of a spot on the 53. They cannot afford to offer large bonuses or guaranteed money, so it will take some work to search out willing players. But as the list of available free agents grows, the odds of finding those players will also increase.
Dallas has one advantage in that it is seen as a team on the rise. Coming off the playoff run and with so many key elements still in place, the Cowboys can offer free agents a chance to be part of a good team. For defensive linemen, they get the chance to work with Rod Marinelli and the opportunity to maximize their performance. Running backs see a potent offense with three very important factors named Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, plus the demonstrated commitment to the run that would give them a chance to shine. Dallas already has a reputation as one of the glamour teams in the league and is a great metropolitan area to live. Now it is poised to start another run as one of the more successful teams.
It leaves Dallas in the position to let the market come to them. And they can look for who will best fit their needs. They can get a specialist pass rusher or a role player running back if they choose. This may also affect the situation with Murray. It would be good to see the price for runners get depressed, making it easier to work out an affordable deal with him. But failing that, there are opportunities already shaping up to get an experienced back at a bargain price.
So get your scout on and start picking out who you'd like to see get a chance.