clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Five low-cost free agents the Cowboys could sign to help address needs

It won’t be exciting, but it will be productive.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Free agency begins today! Well, the free agency tampering period! Hooray, are you excited? Well, if you’re like most Cowboys fans, you have already resigned yourself to not expect a whole lot of splashing around. Big-name deals? Nah, leave that for the other teams who are terrible at drafting and have to resort to overspending to fill big holes on their team. Instead, the Cowboys will take a spackle approach. That is, they will attempt to cover up holes with some cheap free agent purchases and look for real answers in next month’s draft. With that said, here are four low-cost options the Cowboys could target as they address their needs in free agency.

Instead of Earl Thomas, how about...

S, Adrian Phillips

Former team/age: Los Angeles Chargers/27

Brace yourself as you watch talented safeties being plucked off the market by other teams. First, the stars will go - Earl Thomas, Landon Collins, and Adrian Amos. Then, the stronger players - Lamarcus Joyner, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and Tyrann Matheiu. And to make matters even worse, the solid guys will start going as well - Tre Boston, Tashaun Gibson, and Kenny Vaccaro.

Despite the top guys going, free agency still offers quite a bit of depth at the safety position. The Cowboys can be patient here and still come away with a decent player. He won’t be a star, but that’s okay.

Adrian Phillips is a career backup who is just looking for a chance. Stuck behind Derwin James and Jahleel Addae, Phillips was the odd man out, but he still managed to see the field on 66% of the team’s defensive snaps (sixth most on the team). That’s because he’s a linebacker hybrid who can be used in run-stopping situations.

Why the Cowboys? The team loves to give opportunities to guys who have been lagging on the depth chart on other teams. At just 26-years-old, he still has plenty of room to grow. Phillips is also an ace on special teams as he made the Pro Bowl last season as a special teamer. He is excellent against the run, diagnosing plays quickly. Phillips is a smart player and doesn’t get lost in traffic. Not to mention, he can wrap up. He only had five missed tackles last season. Jeff Heath had 21. The Cowboys need to take action to make sure a play like this doesn’t ever happen again.

Instead of David Irving, how about...

DT, Rodney Gunter

Former team/age: Arizona Cardinals/27

Rodney Gunter was taken in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He’s played in all 64 games of his four-year career. Last season, he started in 10 of those games and registered a career-high 4.5 sacks, which is more sacks than his previous three years combined. He also had 44 tackles and forced two fumbles. He’s trending up.

Imagine if you could just squeeze David Irving down a couple inches into a slightly stockier defensive tackle build. Well, that’s exactly what I see when I watch Gunter play. Don’t get me wrong - he’s nowhere close to Irving’s ability, but Gunter is athletic and is good at both the run and rushing the quarterback.

Why the Cowboys? The team is always looking to cycle high-upside guys along the defensive line. Antwaun Woods only has one year left on his deal (as does Maliek Collins). Landing a player like Gunter gives the team more talent inside and buys them time to find the real answer in the draft.

Instead of Cole Beasley, how about...

WR, Ryan Grant

Former team/age: Indianapolis Colts/28

Cowboys fans should remember Ryan Grant from the four years he spent with the Washington Redskins before signing a one-year deal with the Colts last season. Grant was a forgotten man in Indy with T.Y. Hilton and breakout tight end Eric Ebron garnering most of the targets. He did compile 35 catches for 334 yards last season over 10 starts.

Why the Cowboys? Grant is outside the top 20 free agent receivers so Dallas will be looking to go cheap here. Despite his cost, he possesses a lot of traits the team looks for. He’s an excellent route-runner and is a cerebral player that consistently finds ways to get open. Grant is a high-character guy with a strong work ethic. He’s also money on third down as 68% of his career catches have resulted in a first down. Grant has the flexibility to play all three WR positions, which can come in handy as the Cowboys sort out their receiving group.

Instead of Cameron Fleming, how about...

OT, Jermey Parnell

Former team/age:Jacksonville Jaguars/33

During his first four years, Jermey Parnell was the Cowboys swing tackle, playing behind Tyron Smith and Doug Free. On the final year of his contract, Parnell had a stroke of good luck and managed to start five games in 2014. It was all the Jaguars needed to see to sign him to a five-year, $32 million deal to be their starting right tackle. Jacksonville had one of the worst offensive lines in the league so the need was huge.

Parnell never lived up to his big contract, but he’s still a viable swing tackle. He was simply a cap casualty for the Jags to help free up space for their free agent signings, like say...Nick Foles?

Why the Cowboys? While he’s not the player he once was, he can still hold up in a pinch. Cam Fleming is the preferred option still if the team can afford him, but if they miss out on him, then Parnell could be their next best option. At 33-years-old, he’s not the answer to the future, but look for the Cowboys to address the position in the draft. With La’el Collins entering the last year of his contract, they need to be looking ahead, but Parnell could be a solid bridge player for the team.

Instead of trading for Duke Johnson, how about...

RB, Mike Davis

Former team/age: Seattle Seahawks/26

There is a long list of backup running backs hitting the free agent market who are looking for opportunities to spread their wings - Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman, and T.J. Yeldon to name a few. Unfortunately, for many of these free agents, the large supply will drive down the asking price for some of these running backs as they’ll once again find themselves relegated to backup roles. Consequently, some decent running backs will be found for cheap.

Mike Davis started last season fourth on the Seahawks depth chart, but hard work and injury bugs moved him up to the primary backup to Chris Carson for several games. Davis ran for 514 yards on 112 carries and added another 214 yards as a receiver.

Why the Cowboys? Even though the Cowboys have Ezekiel Elliott, they essentially have nobody else. There is a definitive hole at the running back position.

The Cowboys will be looking around for someone they can call upon for a backup, but he’s also an excellent third-down back who can be utilized within the normal game plan. The Cowboys seem to have a thing for former Seahawks running backs as Christine Michael, Rob Turbin, and even Rod Smith have all ran the ball for Seattle prior to coming to Dallas.


There are plenty of good options at each position and the Cowboys should be able to find some good buys at reasonable costs. Here are a couple of the guys worth targeting with the preferred choice highlighted in green.

Which low-cost free agent would you like to see the Cowboys sign?