While other teams are splashing around with some big name signings, it's business as usual for the guys at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys have a plan, and if recent history is any proof, that plan is to just sit back and be patient. If the team doesn't make any expensive signings, then it should free up some cash to go after some of the second-tier price guys.
Yesterday, we got a look at the first part of the BTB Free Agent Big Board. Now, it is time to check out the next group of free agents - upscale purchases. These are players whose average annual salary cost should be in the $5 to $7 million range. The Cowboys stand a much better chance at going after these types of players. Let's take a look.
1. Rolando McClain
When the topic of Rolando McClain comes up, a lot fans are quick to assert that they've had enough of him. Whether it be because of a failed drug test or lackadaisical play at times, he is deemed as someone who's just not worth it. But that is not the belief of us front page writers. We want him back. He is the overwhelming top pick to sign from this group.
The Cowboys have been fortunate enough to only have to make a small investment for his first two years in Dallas. A late-round draft pick and a few million is all it has cost the team. But that's going to change. McClain is going to demand a little more money now. And the Cowboys should give it to him. Sure, there is some risk that he'll get suspended. Or that he just wakes up one day and decides he doesn't want to play. When it comes to his ability, however, the Cowboys can come out winners. On a bad day, he's not terrible and can still produce close to what he'd cost. But Rolando has an opportunity to go to the next level. Sure, fans have been holding their breath for that next level, but just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it's not there. The team likes what they have seen in him. His raw skills are not in question, but it's just a matter of whether he can be coached up enough to play at that higher level.
Wouldn't you love to see more of this?
2. Sean Smith
Smith ranks just outside the top three corners in free agency, but that doesn't mean he's going to come at an affordable price. While a player like Janoris Jenkins has cashed in a huge payday, a player like Smith is looking for something in the range of $8-$10 million. That's just too rich for the Cowboys.
The Chiefs CB had a great season last year and is in line for a nice payday. At 6'3", Smith has the size to matchup against bigger receivers. The Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers have shown interest in Smith as both teams ranked near the bottom in passing yards last season.
3. Derrick Shelby
The Miami Dolphins had a stacked defensive line last year with Ndamukong Suh, Olivier Vernon, and Cameron Wake. After they lost Wake for the season, Shelby stepped in and played well. He is very good against the run and would be a nice addition to the Cowboys defensive line.
While he played well with his opportunities in Miami, there is still some uncertainty as to how productive he'd be in a larger role. The Cowboys don't have the beef the Dolphins have on the defensive line so it could be a little harder for him to repeat his 2015 performance.
4. Nick Fairley
The Detroit Lions selected Fairley in the first round of 2011, but the Lions let him walk after his rookie contract expired. Last year, he signed a one-year, $5 million, "prove-it" deal with the St. Louis Rams. He played solid in 15 games, but didn't start in any of them because the Rams were so deep on the defensive line. He'll be looking for a larger role with a larger payday this season.
While a player with Fairley's ability would help the interior of the Cowboys defensive line, he comes with some baggage. In 2012, he was arrested for marijuana possession, driving under the influence, and attempting to elude police. The Cowboys may not want to deal with another character risk player if they don't have to.
5. Lamar Miller
Fans are conflicted about the idea of signing Lamar Miller. They either love it or hate it. And it's not much different for the BTB writers. Michael and Jim ranked him high, whereas Ryan, OCC, and myself weren't as enthralled by the idea. Rat discussed the Miller possibility in a recent article.
Miller to Dallas is quite the interesting possibility. Darren McFadden exceeded just about every expectation imaginable in 2015 and while he has all the right in the world to be the starting back come Week 1 of the 2016 NFL season, the fact remains that the Cowboys could really use a dynamic weapon to take pressure off of Romo. What Murray did in 2014 was quite impressive, but he was used a ton. In Miller, the Cowboys could get a ton of production in a smaller amount of carries.
Miller is a dynamic back. His shiftiness would be a sight to see in Dallas. The real question though is - how much will he cost. The Houston Texans are also interested in him and might be will to throw more money at him. The Cowboys have been pretty firm when it comes to how much they are willing to allocate for a running back.
6. Adrian Clayborn
The Cowboy were interested in Clayborn last season, but he opted to sign a one-year $3 million deal with Atlanta. Now, they get to try it once again. The team has expressed interest in the 27 year old defensive end and he may be in their price range. The former first round pick (2011) hasn't lived up to his draft price, but he's still a solid pass rusher. If you think back to what Rod Marinelli has gotten out of Jeremy Mincey and George Selvie in recent years, it's not hard to believe that a player with Clayborn's skills could be a quality contributor to the rotation.
Another plus for the Cowboys is his versatility. While he's got good speed for his size to be an effective edge rusher, the Falcons used him quite a bit on the inside. This could allow him to attack from the middle on pass rushing situations.
7. Jaye Howard
The Seattle Seahawks have made great decisions in the past when it comes to their defense, but cutting Jaye Howard in 2013 was not one of them. He put together a great season last year with 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks (same as Malik Jackson). Thomas Duck recently wrote about why the Cowboys should have an interest in the free agent defensive tackle.
This is the type of defensive tackle the Dallas Cowboys need in their lives. Incumbent Nick Hayden is an unrestricted free agent, and the team has long been looking to upgrade. But at what price? Certainly Howard will not be a bargain basement option, but we are talking about a position that is ultimately very important to this defense, and one that has proven to be difficult to fill. Howard is 27 years old and entering the prime of his career. He is looking at what will likely be his most lucrative contract. Most projections have a deal for Howard in the $4-6 million range for four or five years. It may seem on the expensive side, but the Cowboys have had no luck in finding a 1-technique tackle on the cheap. If Jerry ad the boys can lock up the position for the next several years, it would give them the time to find and develop a younger option for the future.
8. Brandon Boykin
You'd think that Chip Kelly was earning commissions on his trades last season because he was dealing away any player with a pulse. Brandon Boykin was one of those players. Boykin went to Pittsburgh last season where the Steelers took an unusual approach to divvying up his playing time. The compensation to the Eagles was dependent on the amount of playing time Boykin received, so early on in the year - the Steelers just never used him. Then all of a sudden, he was playing all the time. And when he played, he played well. When the playoffs rolled around, Boykin was seeing a significant amount of snaps and was a key contributor to the Steelers secondary.
Boykin is a good player, but with the money teams are throwing out to corners thus far, he could end up being out of the Cowboys pay range.
9. Danny Trevathan
Similar to Lamar Miller, the BTB writers were on opposite ends with Trevathan. He was a sixth-round pick in 2012, but quickly emerged as a starter for the Denver Broncos. Last year he led the team in tackles and help Denver establish the top run stopping defense in the league. Of course, the Broncos had a phenomenal front seven so the supporting cast helped make everyone better.
Trevathan is more talented that McClain, but he'll be more expensive too.
Sounds like price tag on LB Danny Trevathan is going to be at or just a little above $7 million per season. That's not a surprise.— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) March 8, 2016
With the recent news of McClain re-signing with Dallas, Trevathan is not a likely option for the Cowboys now.
10. Pacman Jones
Stephen Jones and Pacman Jones recently bumped into each other at a restaurant so that set off a slew of rumors that Pacman could be returning to Dallas. While the veteran corner had a strong season with the Cincinnati Bengals, it doesn't seem likely that the Cowboys would venture down that path again. Jones played for the Cowboys in 2008 where his most impressive feat was seeing how many balls he could hold on to when catching punts during practice. He wasn't productive in Dallas at the age of 25 as he didn't have any picks and only accrued 31 tackles. The 32-year old version doesn't bring about any excitement.
Which players in this price range would you love to see the Cowboys go after?