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Dallas Cowboys Offseason 2016: Three Decisions Will Shape Cowboys Ability To Contend

After a 4-12 season, nothing is solidified with the Dallas Cowboys. Which leaves the rest of us scratching our heads on where to start improving on this disaster.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

All most Cowboys fans want to do is put this horrific season behind them as fast as possible and start anew with hopefully a contending team in 2016. In order for that to happen the Cowboys have a lot of unfinished business to get to including their own free agents and draft. All of these seeming unanswered queries have the brain in quite a situation. Let's air out the laundry.

1. Can The Cowboys Really Afford To Let Greg Hardy Walk?

Dallas is in quite the conundrum with their defensive ends. Though Hardy only accounted for six sacks (seven according to PFF), he did bring some pressure on the passer and was a presence against the run. In contrast, thouhg, Jeremy Mincey spoke out about Hardy becoming sort of a distraction but:

A.) Mickey Spagnola believes that Mincey was mainly furthering his own agenda as he is also an unrestricted free agent.

B.) It's not like we don't already know how much of a self-promoter 'Mr. Mince' is.

All of this considered, letting Hardy just walk might not be the best idea for a team that is trying to contend but got severely bitten by attrition once again. If Hardy is let go, it will be because he's too much to handle in the locker room and too expensive. In fact, I wouldn't blame the front office one bit, but they currently don't have anything to replace him with. Randy Gregory's rookie campaign was hurt by injury and he's not likely ready to become a full-time starter. It would also mean that the Cowboys would have to find a veteran presence. Well, the market doesn't look so great for them either. Williams Hayes, Adrian Clayborn, and Derrick Shelby are names being floated, but the fact that Mincey is in the top ten available is laughable. Again, if they decide Hardy isn't worth it, that's fine but history shows drafting a rookie there isn't going to bring you much. Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner are potential targets at defensive end, but neither project to be Khalil Mack status. This is a big decision for the Cowboys for a number of reasons, one that there is truly no great answer for.

2. Cornerback Is A Big Deal.

Besides the defensive line, the cornerbacks are another position of great need. The same cornerbacks that were only able to generate two interceptions by guys named Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye. Brandon Carr is in the final year of his deal after being in the zero column for the past two seasons. Former Cowboys' legend Everson Walls was pretty candid in saying "I don't think he tackled anybody this season". Of course, that isn't true, but the Cowboys can save almost $7 million by cutting him or $9 million post-June 1. The only way Carr should be brought back is by a significant pay reduction. Morris Claiborne is also set to hit free agency and though he 'says' he wants to stay a Cowboy, we've seen that dog and pony show before. Somebody may be willing to pay more for what they think he could be. Claiborne certainly had a decent season but it was nowhere near the type of play the Cowboys traded up to the sixth pick to acquire him for. After that dust is settled, Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick are left.

You could start the season with those two as your starters. However the Cowboys would then have to give J.J. Wilcox another shot at free safety and that is a liability to say the least. This position grouping is either 1A or 1B in priority this offseason. The Cowboys have two options. They can try and lure a Trumaine Johnson, Janoris Jenkins, or Casey Hayward type via free agency, which will cost a pretty penny. If that is too rich for their blood than they need to look at the draft. That would mean a Jalen Ramsey or Vernon Hargreaves III in the first, or possibly Kendall Fuller or Will Redmond in the second. This is not a position that they should feel comfortable at by any means.

3. If The Coaches Like A Quarterback, Just Take Him.

The Cowboys coaches are going to get a long, hard look at Carson Wentz. Small school quarterbacks have a tendency to scare people, but if he's the real deal, give him a shot. The reason the Cowboys need to not be afraid of taking a quarterback as early as four is because they may not get that opportunity again without giving up serious collateral. Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch, and Wentz are the top three names out there and the Cowboys will have a shot at one of them. If they decide to trade back to stockpile picks, that may show as a perfect spot to get Wentz. Something tells me that if coach Garrett likes what he sees at the Senior Bowl, then it's likely Wentz will be taken. The arguments against taking a quarterback are warranted especially if there is a player that grades out better. However, if Goff, for instance, is your fourth-best player and happens to be there, don't pass on him.

Coach's jobs depend on the ability to identify franchise quarterbacks, they can't be afraid to grab one and sit him behind Tony Romo. My colleague, Jim Scott, pointed out that the outlook of taking a quarterback early has panned out more often than not. I encourage you to read the entire post here.

In the last 15 years, there have been 19 top five picks used on a quarterback, or roughly 25% of picks. That is a very high mark, and I pause to note that the people who draft players for a living seem very keen on using those precious picks on quarterbacks. 14 of them (73%) were either primary starters for at least six years (indicating a second contract) or were the primary starter for their team in 2015.

Sure, the Cowboys have needs all over the place and we're not 100% sure that quarterback was the only thing that doomed 2015 though it's the likely culprit. With that said, if there is a guy that is worth developing for the next two years and has the tangibles to become a starter when Romo hangs it up, take that chance.

It's certain that many more thoughts and ideas are on the forefront of Cowboys fans' minds everywhere. This is going to be an offseason full of intrigue, but such is life in the National Football League.

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