Remember that movie "Brewster's Millions" with Richard Pryor where he has to spend $30 million in 30 days in order to cash in on the big prize of $300 million. Well, I'm pretty sure he's the guy who's GM'ing the New York Giants now. On opening day of free agency, the Giants have spent a whopping $105 million in guaranteed money by signing Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison. Defensive end Vernon, whose been compared to J.J. Watt by absolutely no one, is now being paid an average annual salary of $17 million, which is a few hundred thousand more than Watt. That is just crazy.
And it's not just the Giants. Everyone is going ape poo-poo when it comes to spending their money in day one of free agency. And by everyone, I mean everyone but Dallas.
The last couple days we've looked at the splash players and upscale purchases the Cowboys might be interested in. Of these two groups, Rolando McClain is the only player the team has inked so far. Are there more coming? Maybe. But if not, you can expect to see the Cowboys be more active when it comes to some of the value players that remain. This tier of players include those whose average annual salary cost should be in the $3 to $5 million range. The Cowboys like to find guys in this price range, so which players are they most likely to target?
1. Morris Claiborne
Are the Cowboys going to re-sign Claiborne? Or is he going to get Mo Money somewhere else? So far, there's been a lot of money paid out to the corners this free agency. The Giants gave Janoris Jenkins a five-year, $62.5 million deal. Even Pacman Jones got paid a healthy three-year, $20 million deal. That's a lot of money for a 32 year old corner. But to his credit, Jones been a reliable defender for Cincinnati in recent seasons.
The same is not true for Claiborne. Granted, he had his best season of his career last year when he started 11 games for the Cowboys, which is one more than he started the previous two season. Health has always been an issue with Claiborne and for that reason - it could keep his price down. Will the Cowboys make a push to keep him? The BTB writers sure want him back as he was an overwhelming first choice from this group.
2. Alfred Morris
The first round of the 2012 draft was not a good one for either Dallas or Washington, but the Redskins saved face for nailing some late round picks. Kirk Cousins was taken in the fourth round and now he'll be making $20 million this year. Alfred Morris was taken in the sixth round and looked like one of the steals in the draft when he rushed for over 1,600 yards his rookie season. He followed that up with two more 1,000 yard seasons, but declined in each of them. Finally, last season he didn't reach the 1,000 mark as he only had 751 yards with only 3.7 yards per carry. With Matt Jones now in the mix in D.C., Morris is left testing the market.
The BTB writers are divided on this one. Half of us like him a lot, the other half want no part of him. The running back prices are still pretty steep right now, but if they die down, would Alf be a viable option to partner with Darren McFadden?
3. James Laurinaitis
The linebacker was a cap casualty last month when he released by the Los Angeles Rams. While the veteran has a lot of mileage on those tires, he's been a model of consistency his entire career, accumulating over 100 tackles in every season. He has started all 112 games of his seven-year career. Laurinaitis doesn't have the speed to keep up with the faster ball-carriers, but he's still got good agility and will add value to the Cowboys linebacker group.
4. Tyvon Branch
The former Kansas City Chiefs safety had a solid season last year where he had 43 tackles, one interception, and one sack. He also had two defensive scores. Branch logged a lot of snaps last season and graded out well for the season.
Tyvon Branch allowed just 94 yards and 0.19 yards per cover snap, outside of the Week 3 game vs Green Bay. pic.twitter.com/kFpJUbBsAf— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 9, 2016
UPDATE: Branch signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals. He is off the board.
5. Rishard Matthews
The Miami Dolphins wide receiver finally got a shot to be a starter in 2015 and he didn't disappoint. Matthews had 43 catches for 662 yards and four touchdowns before the New York Jets roughed him up when he suffered fractured ribs in week 12. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but is a solid short route receiver. Matthews would be a good addition to the Cowboys receiving group, but would the team be interested in spending that kind of money for a receiver? It's moot now, since he's off the table.
UPDATE: Matthews signed a three-year deal with the Tennessee Titans.
6. Anquan Boldin
At the youthful age of 35, Boldin still has some gas left in the tank. After recent news of Calvin Johnson retiring (only 30 years old) and the release of former great, Andre Johnson (34 years old), it's refreshing to see a veteran receiver still making a impact at his age. He had 69 catches for 789 yards last season on an anemic San Francisco offense. If you put Boldin on a good offense, he could be an instant contributor. And his age should drive the price down.
7. Bilal Powell
While the Cowboys missed out on the top level talent running backs, the front office can still swoop in and snag a good complement running back to Darren McFadden. Bilal Powell is that type of runner. He's a shifty little runner at 5'10", 204 pounds, but has great speed and is a very effective receiving back. He's a situational runner, and that is exactly what the Cowboys will be looking for with a value-priced free agent back.
The New York Jets lost running back, Chris Ivory to the Jacksonville Jaguars so they may try harder to retain Powell. They'll have their work cut out for them as there are multiple teams interested in him, including the Cowboys.
The Jets have some competition in that regard, however: New England, Dallas, and Baltimore have all been reported as interested in signing Powell, who emerged as a decent pass catcher and route-runner during those periods when Ivory was injured last season.
[UPDATE]: Bilal Powell is re-signing with the Jets.
8. Case Keenum
The Los Angeles Rams have placed a first-round tender on the veteran quarterback, worth $3.35 million for the 2016 season. For a team to go after Keenum, it would now cost them a first-round pick. The only team silly enough to do something like that would be the Philadelphia Eagles and they've already met their quota this season of overpaying for quarterbacks.
9. Antonio Gates
When healthy, Gates has been fantastic. In 14 seasons, he has over 10,000 yards receiving. The veteran tight end has been a reliable target for the San Diego Chargers over the years. And it looks like they are going to keep it that way.
UPDATE: Gates signed a two-year, $12 deal with the Chargers
10. Sterling Moore
The Cowboys could opt to sign a familiar face at the cornerback position. Moore had a solid season for the Cowboys when he started seven games for them in 2014. He had 50 tackles and 13 pass break-ups. He also scooped up two fumbles. The Cowboys chose not to resign him last off-season so he went to Tampa Bay on a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Last season, Moore played well for the Bucs, starting nine games for them. He had 45 tackles, one interception, and three forced fumbles. While he hadn't shown the Cowboys enough to hang on to him last season, he's now notched another solid year on his belt. He would be a low-cost depth guy that could help strengthen the secondary. Could the Cowboys give Moore another go?
What value priced players would you like to see the Cowboys go after?