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Cowboys Offseaon 2016: Playing Free Agency "Pipe Dream" Or "Realistic"

The Dallas Cowboys will be in the market to improve their roster in free agency. In this article, I'll name 10 free agents and see if they're a realistic target or if they're simply just a pipedream.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL draft has always been the best part of the offseason. I try to "couch-scout" around 250 prospects each year to get a sense of each player that is taken by an NFL franchise. Because the salary cap restricts big-market teams from buying all the talent, the key to building a successful franchise is through the draft. The Seattle Seahawks are a prime example of this, having built one of the best teams that looks to improve and be relevant for awhile. However, even though the draft is extremely crucial, free agency is also a huge factor in the offseason.

The teams that 'win' free agency are usually the team that needs a few pieces to complete their Super Bowl run. For example, for their Super Bowl run, the Seahawks signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in free agency. Both brought immediate help in the pass rush department, which helped make arguably one of the better defenses we've seen in recent memory.

Despite a 4-12 season, the Cowboys are a team that has the Super Bowl on their mind in 2016, and they should. With Tony Romo and Dez Bryant returning, to go along with an offensive line that is only getting better, and a defense that has a ton of talent at certain areas, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Cowboys have the eighth-highest odds to win Super Bowl LI in 2017.

That said, the Cowboys still have holes on their roster that will need to be fixed this offseason, some of those holes could be filled in free agency. In this article, I'll name 10 free agents that could intrigue the Cowboys. However, some of them will be pipedreams for Dallas, while others may just be very realistic. For the sake of this article, I'm going to stay away from some of the bigger names, such as guys like Von Miller, Alshon Jeffery, and Muhammed Wilkerson. This article is going to feature names that could very well hit the open market. I don't expect that to be the case for top-tier players like those three and others.

DE Robert Ayers

Let's start out with the former New York Giant. After five underwhelming years with the Denver Broncos, Ayers came to New York and immediately became a key piece to their defensive line. Ayers is a prototypical 4-3 defensive end who would fit nice as a rotational defensive end. However, because Ayers is coming off his best season and he's playing for hometown team, I don't expect to see Ayers hit the open market. But if he does, the Cowboys should have some interest, that is if the price is within range.

Verdict: Pipedream

DE Derrick Shelby

When free agency rolls around, Shelby will be 27. Perhaps one of the lesser-known defensive line talents around the league, Shelby is an intriguing player. He's extremely quick and he would be a real nice piece on passing situations. Shelby is also coming off his best statistical season, but the Dolphins are currently last in the league in terms of cap space. If Shelby hits the open market, the Cowboys should pounce on a unique talent like him.

Verdict: Realistic

LB Brandon Marshall

Nope, not the star receiver for the New York Jets. Instead, the star inside linebacker for the Broncos. Marshall is quite the athletic specimen. He's coming off two 100-tackle seasons and because the Cowboys have some question marks at the linebacker position, Marshall is a player that would fit at either the Sam position or the Mike position, that is if the Cowboys decide to let Rolando McClain walk in free agency. Because the Broncos will have to dish out big money to Von Miller and Malik Johnson, Marshall may hit free agency. If the Cowboys don't bring back McClain and they are worried about Damien Wilson's and Anthony Hitchens' development, Marshall could be a target.

Verdict: Realistic

QB Drew Stanton

We saw how bad the Cowboys are without Tony Romo in the starting lineup. Because the Cowboys have the fourth-overall pick, there won't be a better time in the near future to draft a franchise quarterback. However, if the Cowboys are all in on winning a Super Bowl within the next few years, they should focus on adding a talent that can contribute immediately, not a guy like Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. The Cowboys should still add a quarterback at some point in the draft for a developmental guy, but they should also add a guy in free agency that could be the backup.

That's where a guy like Stanton comes into play. Stanton is one of the better backups in the league and while he may not hit the open market, the Cowboys would have to pay a pretty penny if he does. However, it might be worth for the sake of Romo's aging body and whoever that development rookie is. Stanton has experience in Scott Linehan's offense dating back to their days with the Detroit Lions just a few seasons ago. Knowing that, the idea of Stanton in Dallas isn't that far out of the question.

Verdict: Realistic

WR Marvin Jones

The Cowboys need to add a receiver or two at some point in the offseason. There are a ton of nice players in the draft, but if the Cowboys want an established No. 2 receiver, then Jones fits the bill. He has good size at 6'2, 200 pounds, with speed to go with it. The Bengals will have a decision to make with Jones and Mohammed Sanu, but if Jones hits the open market, he'd be a guy that I would really like the Cowboys to go after. Remember, this is a guy that hauled in 10 touchdowns just a few seasons ago.

Verdict: Realistic

WR Travis Benjamin

Again with the notion of the Cowboys going after a receiver, Benjamin is a guy that would add another element to this offense. He's a guy that is known for his deep-ball ability, but he's also a deceptive receiver that wins in space. Benjamin is coming off an impressive 2015 campaign, where Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, and Austin Davis threw him the football. Imagine what he could do in Dallas with Romo.

Verdict: Realistic

S Eric Weddle

Weddle has been one of the better safeties in football for as long as I can remember. He also has been of the more known faces, thanks to his beard. Despite all of this, Weddle is 31 years old coming off his worst season. He's lost a lost in his game, most notably his speed and his ability to have range in the secondary. The Cowboys would benefit more by upgrading the secondary in the draft, rather than giving out a contract to a former star that has already aged.

Verdict: Pipedream

S Eric Berry

Bringing Berry to Dallas would be an unbelievable get. I don't expect him to return to Kansas City so easily, but I also believe that he will cost way too much for the Cowboys to sign him. Nevertheless, Berry would do really well in Dallas' defense. Berry is an excellent center-fielder and he would immediately make this secondary better. But because Kansas City stayed true to him through his health issues with lymphoma and he's coming off his best season, I don't see Berry leaving Kansas City.

Verdict: Pipedream

RB Doug Martin

While Darren McFadden is coming off a career season, the Cowboys have to start looking at the future at the running back position. Dallas needs a running back that can excel in their zone-blocking scheme. McFadden is more of a man-blocking scheme kind of guy. That's where Martin could come in and contribute. He has great vision and he's a finisher. However, Martin helped Jameis Winston's rookie campaign tremendously. While the Buccaneers did decline Martin's 2016 contract before the season, the team should be in the market to re-sign him after the successful season the duo of Winston and Martin had.

Verdict: Pipedream

RB Lamar Miller

Lastly, the Cowboys could bring in some nice talent this offseason, but the biggest get that I see happening is Miller. At 24, Miller really has never seen his potential fully realized, mainly because of how the Dolphins have used him. In Dallas, Miller would be able to take advantage of such a vaunted offensive line. I'm not usually for signing a running back, given their lifespan in today's NFL, but Miller just makes too much for the Cowboys not to go after him.

Verdict: Realistic

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