The Cowboys went from NFC East Division winner to the basement in the span of one season, due mainly to the injuries they suffered, namely QB Tony Romo missing over 10 games. While Dallas needs to retool some for the future, they also have a chance to compete now if Romo is healthy. With that mindset the Cowboys should be somewhat aggressive in free agency and try for one more playoff run. Here’s my potential look at what the Cowboys could do this offseason to get back in contention using Manage the Cap.
Cuts and Re-signings, Re-Structures:
- The Cowboys cap situation is very top heavy with most of the significant money invested in just a handful of players, all of whom either are indispensable or it would be prohibitive to cut.
Re-Signings: DE Jack Crawford 3 years $13.5 million ($3.5 million 2016 cap hit), LB Ronaldo McClain 3 years $15 million ($3.75 million 2016 cap hit), RB Lance Dunbar 2 years $4 million ($1.6 million 2016 cap hit).
- With it sounding like the Cowboys are going to move on from Greg Hardy, they need to ensure that they can still get production from the DE position. Crawford is no Greg Hardy, but he’s become a solid player and worth a moderate investment to remain in the Cowboys rotation. McClain had another good year and helps the Cowboys have a pretty strong LB group overall. You don’t want to invest big money because of his track record, but this is a multi-year deal that makes sense for Dallas. Dunbar is coming off a big injury, but before he went down he was a very effective weapon out of the backfield. He’s worth bringing back on a cheap deal.
Restructures: DT Tyrone Crawford, and WR Dez Bryant
- Since the Cowboys can’t really cut anyone to free up additional cap space, they will need to restructure some contracts to push money into the future. Bryant and Crawford make the most sense to restructure since they figure to be kep pieces of this team going forward.
QB Colt McCoy- 2 years $5 million, 2016 Cap Hit- $2 million
FB Darrel Young- 3 years $6.75 million, 2016 Cap Hit- $2.06 million
- Offensively the Cowboys don’t need a lot of help from a starting perspective. Their offensive line is set for the future. They have a good top three receiver group and Jason Witten remains a good TE option. Darren McFadden had a really good year last year and is a very cheap starting back for 2016. Finally when healthy Tony Romo is a top 10 QB in the league. Now there are some depth questions for sure, but it doesn’t make sense for the Cowboys to spend significant money on the offensive side of the ball.
- While there is a lot of speculation among whom the Cowboys might look for as a back-up QB, I think one of the best options might be McCoy. He won’t be as expensive as some other free agent back-up options, and he’s a local kid which could help convince him to sign without overpaying. McCoy may never be a long term starter, but as he showed two years ago with the Redskins he can be solid in spot duty. If Romo were to miss a game or two next year, McCoy would be a good option to fill in and give the Cowboys at least some chance of winning.
- The only other offensive player was FB Darrel Young. Young doesn’t really fit into Jay Gruden’s offense, but he could be a good lead blocker for McFadden next season. Young can help in short yardage and catch passes out of the backfield as well. In addition he is a good pass protector and contributor on special teams.
S Eric Weddle- 5 years $47.5 million, 2016 Cap Hit- $5.52 million
DE Bruce Irvin – 4 years $20 million, 2016 Cap Hit- $3.5 million
CB Brandon Boykin – 4 years $21.5 million, 2016 Cap Hit- $3.85 million
- Most of the Cowboys efforts in free agency should probably be geared to building up the defense. Dallas has some really good pieces to build around, which should allow them to only have to target a couple key players to fill out their roster.
- Number one on that list should be S Eric Weddle, who remains one of the top safeties in the game. If Dallas is serious about fixing their defense this offseason, Weddle should be their top priority. He would add star power to the back-end of that defense and would be a huge upgrade on this team.
- Bruce Irvin is not really a full time player, but he can still get some pressure on the QB which should help land him a nice moderate deal. Irvin can help replace Greg Hardy and he would give the Cowboys an impressive rotation of edge rushers.
- Boykin has been underappreciated his career, but he’s a quality corner capable of covering both the slot and outside. He would help replace Claiborne, and help really turn around the secondary of the Cowboys.
If Tony Romo is healthy the Cowboys can win the NFC East and contend in the playoffs, so it makes sense for Dallas to make a few splash moves this offseason. A free agency class like this would also help allow the Cowboys to take a QB in the first round to groom behind Romo and McCoy for a year or two. Now if Romo is out for an extended period of time this FA plan will probably be one that the Cowboys regret, but I expect them to go for it this year.
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