Slow and steady wins the race.
The Cowboys aren't making any big headlines with their free agency signings. Fans who have paid close attention to offseason activities of the front office in recent years are not surprised. Yes, there are some that are upset that Dallas isn't going after any of these premium free agents, but that is just how this team operates these days.
So far, the BTB writing staff has put together a board in the following categories:
Now it is time to take a look as some bargain free agents that should cost somewhere in the $2 to $3 million range. (It turns a few of these guys were paid much more than that range, as noted below.)
Michael Sisemore helps me break down this group.
1. Ron Leary
Phantom: Leary is the hands-down favorite from this group to sign. We both scored him a nine. What makes him so important to this team?
Sisemore: The Cowboys may be in one of the best situations on the offensive line and Leary is a big reason why. He can start at either guard position and is a better than a solid player. It's the strongest unit on the team where they take pride in their abilities. Ron Leary may be the best-kept backup in the NFL.
UPDATE: The Cowboys placed a second round tender on Leary worth $2.55 million.
2. Akiem Hicks
Phantom: We both love this guy as we gave him a top score of 10. What is it about Hicks that gets you so excited?
Sisemore: Talk about a guy who can use some Marinelli magic, Hicks is exactly the type of player the Cowboys should sign. He's got the tremendous upside and a high pedigree for the game. The New England Patriots showed that this is a run-stuffing defensive tackle with the ability to live in the backfield. You could place him next to Crawford and that would be a huge upgrade over what Dallas has in Hayden. He's got athleticism and is still young. He can free guys up to make plays.
3. Mike Neal
Phantom: Ryan and OCC love this guy, but we didn't score him very high (he didn't even make my top 10). What is it that we are missing about this guy?
Sisemore: He's a former second-round pick from the Green Bay Packers. Neal is still rather young at 28 years old. He's your younger version of Jeremy Mincey. He may not light it up but he'll be a solid rotation guy that can get you four to five sacks per season and make your defensive line look a whole lot better on Sundays.
4. Kendall Reyes
Phantom: Reyes is another young guy that could help strengthen up the middle of the defensive line. He hasn't done a whole lot in San Diego. Why should the Cowboys be interested in him?
Sisemore: He's another second-round pick here looking for a change of scenery. Reyes is a role-playing tackle with youth that can provide an athletic push in the middle. With the Cowboys needing to get more production in the middle of their line, Reyes can provide more stability at the position. He's good for 30+ tackles and a few sacks, but he has shown the ability to get guys free and allow them to make plays.
5. Louis Delmas
Phantom: Delmas is another low cost guy that could be an asset to the Cowboys secondary. He got hurt and never saw the field last season. Is this someone the Cowboys can find snaps for in the secondary?
Sisemore: Although he didn't play a single game in 2015 after tearing his ACL in 2014, somehow the Miami Dolphins still thought enough to re-sign him. He makes a ton of tackles and has had multiple picks in five of his seven years in the league. He plays mainly free safety but can move down. He's a solid contributor who would be an upgrade over J.J. Wilcox or Danny McCray. The Cowboys could be a good situation for him to come in and earn a better role.
6. Jeremy Mincey
Phantom: The Cowboys got great production out of Mincey in 2014, starting all 16 games and sacking the quarterback six times. But last season was a different story. He only started six games and never got a sack. He's 32 now. Can he still add value to the defensive line?
Sisemore: We already know plenty about Mincey and he may have passed the threshold of age that the Cowboys are willing to roll with. However, in the right situation, Mincey can move all over the line and led the team in sacks just one year ago. He's a great locker room guy and the young players really like his leadership.
7. Brandon Mebane (turned out to be a little more than a bargain guy)
The 6'1" 311 pound defensive tackle from the Seattle Seahawks had a career total 349 tackles, 15.5 sacks in 131 career games.
UPDATE: Signed a three-year, $13.5 million deal with San Diego
8. Chris Ivory (turned out to be a little more than a bargain guy)
Phantom: I was a fantasy owner of Chris Ivory last season so I got some first-hand experience appreciating what he did last season. But is this a guy that can be counted on to be a consistent running back in this league?
Sisemore: He had one of his best years in 2015 for the New York Jets, but they seem to have grown tired of his asking price. They signed Matt Forte to replace him. Ivory is at that age (27) where he's looking to get one last deal, but that may keep him from really making what he expects. Still, here's a 1,000-yard rusher with a 4.3 average and seven touchdowns in 2015. The right system could squeeze everything out of this guy and win big.
UPDATE: Signed a five-year, $32 million deal with Jacksonville
9. Cedric Thornton (turned out to be a little more than a bargain guy)
Phantom: The Philadelphia Eagle's defensive tackle has been a reliable starter for the last three seasons. You scored him pretty high. What do you see in Thornton that would make him a valuable player to the Cowboys defensive line.
Sisemore: Thornton was a solid role player for the Eagles at both defensive end and tackle. His versatility makes him a quality find for a team willing to give him a shot. He may have other suitors too but Thornton could add to the interior of the Cowboys line. He's a feisty player and is known mainly as a run-stuffer but the Cowboys need all hands on deck.
UPDATE: Signed a four-year, $18 million deal with Dallas
10. Robert Golden
Phantom: The Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-year safety has played in all but one game his entire career, but has only started in three of them. Does he have the skills to steal any playing time from the current Cowboys players at that position?
Sisemore: He's a strong safety coming off his best year, but that only includes 40 tackles and one interception. That's hardly anything to write home about, but he did better than many of the Cowboys defensive backs. He could certainly be an upgrade over Danny McCray but should remain a backup player.
UPDATE: Signed a three-year, $5 million deal with Pittsburgh
Which bargain-priced players do you want the team to bring to Dallas?