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Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2016: Formidable Options That Won't Break The Bank

Before the Cowboys can think about the draft, they have to focus on upgrading their team through free agency. What are some options that can help get them to Sunday?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Those of us that listen to the Mothership podcasts have heard Mickey Spagnola say before that you use free agency as a tool to get you to Sunday. In the past few seasons, that seems to be the approach by this front office. I've been on record as of late pleading that the Cowboys should be a bit more aggressive in this year's free agency period. When you think about their own guys that could be leaving and outside circumstances involving Randy Gregory, it's looking more and more like this team will have some gaping holes to fill.

I've already spoken ad nauseum for this team to consider getting into the pass rush sweepstakes for guys like Olivier Vernon or Malik Jackson. Even so, the Cowboys could choose to go a more affordable route and wait on a lot of these guys. Keep in mind, some really good players have been had for less money after the initial spending spree has concluded in the first few days. Nobody wants to be unemployed and prices come down after you've been sitting on the shelf for a week or two collecting dust. With that in mind, here are a few guys that have caught my eye and a little bit about each of them.

DE Jason Pierre-Paul, 27, NYG (PFF 81.1 grade)

JPP is an interesting name because of all the controversy surrounding his fireworks accident less than a year ago. Of course, that was a very unfortunate decision he made. However, he seemed to learn how to play well regardless of having a club on his hand. It's uncertain if the Giants are going to want to sign him back but he may be worth a look or two for a team like Dallas that needs help getting to the quarterback. In limited snaps last season, JPP got better as the season progressed and received positive marks by PFF standards. At 27, he's likely to get more comfortable with his situation and bounce back and improve as he goes along. For the Cowboys, JPP may be a less expensive option with upside to potentially return to a double-digit sack guy.

CB Casey Hayward, 26, GB (PFF 82.7 grade)

Hayward was once a player who was seemingly becoming a star cornerback for the Packers. In his rookie season, he allowed the best opposing passer rating at 31.1 and recorded six interceptions without allowing any touchdowns. Unfortunately, he was injured the following season and fell behind on the depth chart. Still, Hayward has been a productive cornerback for Green Bay and ranked 16th by PFF standards this season. He's well-versed in both press and zone coverages and has shown the ability to read the quarterback's eyes and make plays. With the Packers signing a few young defensive backs, it seems Hayward will go the way of his former teammate Davon House and get paid elsewhere. He's not going to command big money and this may give the Cowboys an opportunity to grab starter quality for less.

DT Jaye Howard, 27, KC (PFF 80.8 grade)

Howard is a guy that could offer the Cowboys a little more push on the inside. For as solid as Nick Hayden has been, he's been nothing special and lacks athleticism. Howard can play both tackle positions but would be a better fit at the one-technique. In most of his time with the Chiefs, he played more of a rotational role. However, he was asked to start 13 games in 2015 and did not disappoint. Howard had 56 tackles and 5.5 sacks from the nose tackle position. The Chiefs have a lot of other issues to consider with Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali and Howard will likely hit the open market. Howard may not command much money unless a 3-4 team overpays. Yet, he could offer the Cowboys a solid upgrade over Hayden and the oft-injured Terrell McClain.

RB Alfred Morris, 27, WAS (PFF Grade 69.7 grade)

2015 wasn't a very good year for Morris who saw his first season below 1,000 yards rushing with 751 yards and only one touchdown. However, as scouts will tell you, if you've seen it once, you can see it again. Morris was a product of a team that ranked 20th in rushing yards. However, it's hard to argue with his production over the years and he's a perfect fit in the zone blocking scheme. Though the Cowboys have Darren McFadden, there is something to say about what Morris could bring to the lineup. Plus, with three straight years between 2012-2014 of 1,000+ yard seasons, that's more than you can say for McFadden. There is a pretty strong movement for the Cowboys to go after 24-year-old Lamar Miller, but Morris could be a cheaper route that pays dividends.

DT Nick Fairley, 28, LA (PFF 82.0 Grade)

He didn't light up the stat sheet in 2015, but he's an intelligent player that has shown the ability to play at both interior spots. The Cowboys need more athleticism from their defensive front and Fairley offers that to them. He's a big guy at 6' 4", 300+ lbs but has the ability to penetrate the pocket and hold up blockers. Fairley also got better for the Rams as the year went on and became a viable part of their defensive front. This is a former first-round pick from the Lions and that usually gets McClay's ears perked up. He's got a ton of upside and has the great awareness to sniff out screens and get to the ball-carrier. Fairley played well on his one-year deal but won't command high dollar on the market. He was on my radar last season and he remains another guy to keep in mind for the right price.

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