When your team exercises strong discipline in free agency, it can be a grueling process. It will wear on your patience, but it's the right way to go about it. You don't get your best stuff at a garage sale. The Cowboys know where they'll be shopping for quality and it occurs next month, but for now the team will continue to look for players they can bring in to help fill voids.
The BTB writing staff has put together a board in the following categories:
Now we will look at the final tier - Super Cheap guys. These are players that were projected to cost less than $2 million. [Note: these costs were based on how the players ranked in their position group and the amount similar players received last year. As we've seen already, the variation in cost can be a tad askew]
1. James Hanna
The Cowboys fourth-year tight end is one of the most unsung players on the team. Hanna was a sixth round pick in 2012 draft and looked like he could be a real find in a draft that otherwise didn't do much for Dallas (Tyrone Crawford is the only player from that draft class that was under contract entering the offseason). His combine performance was outstanding. His 40 time was the fastest among all tight ends, including Ladarius Green who just signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While Hanna has been more confined to a blocking role for the Cowboys, his value to the team cannot be overstated. Dave Halprin touched on what makes Hanna so important to the team.
Hanna was drafted by the Cowboys in the sixth round of the 2012 draft. In that time he has spent the bulk of his duties helping the running game with blocking assignments and acting as a second tight end in many formations for Dallas. Even though Jason Witten starts every game, Hanna is actually listed as starting 29 games in his career, a testament to how often the Cowboys use him in two tight end formations. Even though he has shown some athleticism, the Cowboys rarely call on him in the passing game.
UPDATE: Hanna re-signed a three-year, $8.25 million deal
2. Kyle Wilber
Right before the Cowboys drafted Hanna, they selected Kyle Wilber in the fourth round. He spent the first couple seasons drawing his position out of a hat as he played strong-side linebacker for Rob Ryan and then switched to a defensive end when Monte Kiffin took over. But now he's back to the SAM linebacker spot and as OCC pointed out, he's starting to find his niche with the team.
In 2015, he played in all 16 games, starting six at SAM linebacker. He recorded 27 tackles (one for loss), four quarterback pressures and two passes defensed on 224 defensive snaps. Just as importantly, he played 354 snaps on special teams, the most of any player on the roster, and tied for the team lead in special teams tackles (9) with Jeff Heath and Damien Wilson. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the second game of the season against the Eagles.
UPDATE: Wilber re-signed a two-year deal with the Cowboys
3. Colt McCoy
Colt McCoy has not played a lot over during the last two seasons with Washington, but when he's played - he's played well. In 2014, he started four games and completed 71% of his passes for 1,057 yards and four touchdowns. The Redskins were terrible that season and McCoy only led his team to one victory and Cowboys fans know all too well which game that was. In week eight, he was 25/30 for 299 yards. He also took a quarterback draw in for a seven-yard touchdown to put the Redskins up seven in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys need to find themselves a quality veteran backup quarterback and McCoy's name has come up plenty. He has the highest cumulative score of all the free agent quarterbacks. He doesn't have good arm strength, but he's got plenty of grit and a propensity to make plays. And despite his play-making ability, he's a smart player and doesn't throw away the game. That is one quality Cowboys fans can appreciate.
McCoy was seen hanging with Tony Romo and Jason Witten so many fans were hoping the Cowboys duo was pulling off some heavy recruiting. If that was the case, it didn't work.
UPDATE: McCoy re-signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Redskins
4. Lance Dunbar
If someone asked about Lance Dunbar a year ago, some fans might not have a whole lot of supporting arguments for hanging on to the Cowboys undrafted running back. It wasn't because he wasn't liked, it's just he was never used enough to provide any meaningful contribution to the team. But all that changed last season. The Cowboys finally got Dunbar involved. In his first three games, he was averaging seven catches for 72 yards. And just as Cowboys fans had a reason to be excited about Dunbar, it was all over as he tore every one of his CL's while returning the opening kickoff in the second half against the New Orleans Saints.
Dunbar is still recovering from his knee injury and his availability is unknown. He's got a good shot at starting the season on the PUP list. This throws a wrench in things as it brings up several questions. How much will this drive down his price? Do the Cowboys need to supplement his contribution elsewhere or can they afford to wait for him to get healthy?
The San Francisco 49ers have shown interest in Dunbar so even if the Cowboys want to bring him back, they may have some competition for his services.
5. Chase Daniel
There is not a lot of pro tape on Daniel as he's only thrown 77 NFL passes during his six year career, so he's a bit of an unknown. What is known though, is that his teams like him. He's never been cut as he's played out his contracts with both New Orleans and Kansas City. And despite his lack of being on the field, it doesn't stop other teams from giving him a nice raise in free agency. The Chiefs did it in 2013 and the Philadelphia Eagles just did it on Wednesday.
But if he's so good, why would the Chiefs' coach let him go? Well, that would be because that coach is coaching in Philadelphia now. Doug Peterson, who's been Andy Reid's right-hand man in Kansas City has reunited with the Eagles as he was hired to be the head coach, replacing the legendary Chip Kelly. Peterson may have left KC, but he's not leaving without an expensive souvenir.
UPDATE: Daniel signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Eagles (These are supposed to be super-cheap guys, but the Eagles refuse to cooperate)
6. Justin Durant
Last year, the Cowboys didn't want to give Durant very much money, but the Atlanta Falcons didn't have a problem with it. Fast forward a year later, and the Falcons have changed their mind. Atlanta cut Durant last month, clearing up some cap space and now the veteran linebacker is up for grabs. But does that mean the Cowboys should grab him? Ryan Ratty pointed out how a reunion with Dallas might not be a bad idea.
With the Falcons for just one season, Durant registered 82 tackles. At 30 years old, Durant is a guy who has been productive in the games he's played in. Because of his age, he won't command that much money in free agency, a bonus for Dallas, especially if they'd like to sign a blue-chip cornerback in free agency.
But there's a trade-off.
The problem with Durant is, and has always been, his health. In two seasons with the Cowboys, Durant played in just 16 games. Last year with the Falcons, he managed to play in 13 games. But in Dallas, Durant's role wouldn't be a starting one. Instead, it would be one where he would play in some sub-packages, mainly in packages that focus on shutting down the opposition in the running game. Durant is also a seasoned guy who would be able to help the progression of both Hitchens and Wilson.
7. Mohamed Sanu
The third-round pick from Rutgers looked like he would be a great compliment receiver next to A.J. Green. However, he's never really had many opportunities to live up to it. The Cincinnati Bengals have had a lot of mouths to feed in the receiving game with Green, Marvin Jones, Tyler Eifert, and even running back Giovani Bernard - all of which had more receptions than Sanu last year. He could have faced a similar problem if he chose to sign with Dallas.
A change of scenery could give the young pass catcher the opportunities he needs.
UPDATE: Sanu signed a five-year, $32.5 million deal with the Falcons.
8. Paul Worrilow
Based on the stat sheet, the Falcons linebacker looks impressive. He's averaged 122 tackles over his three-year career. But looking past the numbers you'll find a very mediocre linebacker. He's Atlanta's version of Kyle Wilber and the Cowboys already have their Wilber. The Falcoholic provided a nice scouting report on Worrilow.
Unfortunately, he was out of position too often in coverage and didn't seem to fit the scheme ideally in the run game. Worrilow definitely deserves a spot on the roster, and honestly, his play might be best suited for strong-side linebacker within the scheme. He'd have limited coverage responsibilities and could primarily focus on the running game and pass rush. Worrilow is talented, but at this point, he's not an ideal fit for the middle linebacker for Atlanta.
UPDATE: The Falcons placed a second-round tender on Worrilow worth $2.5 million
9. Rhett Ellison
The Minnesota Vikings number two tight end is a blocking specialist. He played a key role in the Vikings running game, help making things easier for Adrian Peterson. He's played both as an in-line blocker and fullback.
With the re-signing of Hanna, using additional resources for Ellison wouldn't make a whole lot of sense.
10. Jermaine Kearse
With the emergence of receiver, Doug Baldwin (1,069 yards and 14 TD) and rookie sensation, Tyler Lockett - the Seattle Seahawks third wheel was allowed to test the free agent market. But he must have not liked what he saw because he decided to stick around. And Seattle likes to keep their guys around.
Pete Carroll said after the season that one of the organization's offseason goals was to keep the roster intact as much as possible. He believes they've built a special culture and have a chance to win another Super Bowl. With turnover happening around the league, the Seahawks return their quarterback, top three receivers and offensive coordinator from a year ago.
Retaining their own players? Built a special culture? Hmm, sounds familiar.
UPDATE: Kearse re-signed a three-year, $13.5 million deal with the Seahawks
Which super-cheap players would you like to see the Cowboys target?