Now that the draft is over with and most of the league has filled out their roster, it’s become much harder for guys on the open market to get big paydays. That doesn’t mean that there aren't some talented players out there that could be an interesting grab before training camp begins in a few months. We are also beyond the draft pick compensation deadline, so there is no penalty for grabbing another team’s free agent.
The Cowboys have already made it pretty clear that the competition levels will be high and that should make for some fun roster battles as camp progresses. The Cowboys will also be looking to gain some cap relief with the release/retirements of Tony Romo and Doug Free. With that cap space, the Cowboys will undoubtedly look to sign All-Pro guard Zack Martin long-term. With that said, there are still some guys looking for work who won’t break the bank. Here are five guys that make sense and are still on the market.
DE Devin Taylor, 27
We mentioned Taylor as an option earlier in the offseason and he’s still a young talent for the Cowboys to consider. He’s been more of a rotational player but he does add some juice as a pass rusher. He was drafted to the Detroit Lions in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft where he had 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 14 tackles in his rookie year, appearing in 14 games. In 2014, he appeared in all 16 games but only had 15 tackles and one sack. In 2015, as a rotational guy, Taylor broke out with 35 tackles, seven sacks, and a forced fumble despite not starting a game.
Last season, Taylor started all 16 games, had 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Despite the Lions losing Ndamukong Suh, Taylor has had his best two seasons in Suh’s absence. He’s not the dominant pass rusher but as a rotational piece, he offers up some experience and a high motor type that never quits. Taylor is another big guy (6’ 7”, 275 lbs) with long limbs that allow him to bring down the ball carrier.
CB Jason McCourty, 29
McCourty has had a pretty solid NFL career and he’s been in the league since he was 20 years old. This smells of a reunion with his brother in New England during training camp but he’s worth a tire kick. McCourty was a sixth-round selection for the Tennessee Titans in 2009 but has not been a disappointment by any means. For his career, he’s played in 108 games of a possible 128 missing 12 games in 2015 due to injury. He rebounded in 2016, starting 14 games and having 69 tackles with two interceptions. McCourty has had multiple interceptions in five of his eight seasons with 13 career picks.
He’s a guy that makes a ton of tackles, he’s reliable to see the ball carrier and bring him down without much help. Though he’s 29, he certainly has some good play left in him with the versatility to play many roles. He’s just an all-around solid defender that’s going to make plays on the ball and defend a lot of passes.
OT Ryan Clady, 30
Here’s the case of a guy that has had a string of bad luck of late with some injuries. Clady is a decorated tackle though with four Pro Bowls to his resume. He was a first-round pick by the Broncos in the 2008 NFL Draft. In 2009, Clady set the NFL record for games played without giving up a single sack at 20 games. Clady was also a three-time All-Pro and the highest drafted player in Boise State history at 12th overall.
Clady is by far the most accomplished offensive tackle on them market but there is a reason he’s available. Clady had shoulder surgery for a torn labrum that kept him from playing in the 2013 Pro Bowl. In 2013, he was signed to a five-year deal worth $52.5 million but was placed on injured reserve in the first month of the season with a Lisfranc injury. The Broncos went on to the Super Bowl but were dominated by the Seahawks 43-8. He returned in 2014 and earned his fourth Pro Bowl but tore his ACL during OTA’s on the 2015 season. The Broncos would go on to win Super Bowl 50 that year despite his absence.
In 2016, he was traded to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick. In November, Clady tore a rotator cuff and was placed on injured reserve and the Jets declined his 2017 option. As accomplished as he is, he comes with a litany of injuries over the past few seasons. The Cowboys could be interested as long as the deal was very incentive-laden and protected the team should he be injured.
OLB/ DE Elvis Dumervil, 33
If the Cowboys have shown interest in DeMarcus Ware, or have had any minor interest in Mario Williams or Dwight Freeney (rumors only), they must not be completely removed from the idea of a situational pass rusher. Dumervil at this point in his career would be that for the Cowboys. It’s undeniable that he can get to the quarterback having 99 career sacks. In only three starts last season, Dumervil had three sacks. He’s only two years removed from a 17 sack season and has had an average of 9.9 sacks per season.
As a situational pass rusher, Dumervil could give Rod Marinelli another weapon to deploy. Dumervil is one of the most accomplished edge rushers on the market but he’s had most of his success rushing as an outside linebacker. If the money was right, which it would certainly be, he would be an interesting case to ponder.
ILB Perry Riley, 29
The Cowboys seem to be content with the young linebackers they have but one injury to that room and you have a different story. As excited as the Cowboys are to have the potential of Jaylon Smith on the field in 2017, there is still some trepidation. Riley was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He’s been a pretty solid player throughout his career and has had some memorable games against the Cowboys.
For his career, he’s got 502 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 27 passes defended, three interceptions and four forced fumbles. He’s not the most dynamic linebacker but he’s been productive and can play inside or out as a linebacker. For the Cowboys, they have dealt with quite the bit of injuries at linebacker over the years and not one of their current guys has been the poster child for good health. This could be a sound signing that covers them in case they need a little insurance.
There are plenty more free agents out there. Are there any free agents on the open market that would interest you? A good list can be found here.