© William Hauser | 2015 Oct 25 | USA Today

Several Cowboys Could Be Playing Their Final Games In Dallas

The Cowboys have a steep hole to climb out of over the last five games; borderline Mission Impossible. If they don't pull it off, could they be the final games in a Cowboys uniform for this list of players?

Breaking up is hard to do, no doubt.

With apologies to Neil Sadaka, this is a tune many fans have been able to commiserate with year after year. Once free agency began in the 1980's, NFL teams have had to break up with several stars, whether it be the completion of a contract or decline in performance. WIth the Dallas Cowboys sitting 5 games below .500 with only seven to play, it's going to take a modern miracle to extend the season past Week 17 for this club.

If Romodini is incapable of pulling off such a tall task, the end of the season will likely coincide with the end of the Dallas Cowboys portion of several players careers. Some are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents and they, or the club, might feel that it's best to seek new loves of their life. Others, due to declining performance, will be asked to turn in their tablets, despite the salary cap space they will continue to eat up.

The unrestricted free agents are all interesting case studies on their own. The lead dog is DE Greg Hardy. I firmly believed that Dallas would hang onto Hardy when the biggest infraction was the release of the photos from the case he was already punished for. However, Greg has shown an inability to follow team rules; something that would be tolerated on any team if the club was getting a proper return on investment. Now, not so sure. 

© Tim Heitman | 2015 Sep 13 | USA Today

Next up is Morris Claiborne. Mo finally came into his own this season as a bonafide NFL corner. Injuries have riddled his Dallas career but he finally proved to not be a total bust and has been the Cowboys best CB with Orlando Scandrick sidelined with his ACL injury suffered in training camp. It's likely that Mo will be looking for greener pastures in the offseason.

Lance Dunbar has the unfortunate distinction of Mr. What Could've Been. Long rumored to be a new twist to the Cowboys offense, Dunbar finally got that opportunity in 2015. Dunbar was a utility-knife for Dallas, but unfortunately they also kept using him on kickoff returns, a skill Dunbar didn't really possess. Sure enough, the oft-injured jitterbug back was lost for the season when he tore his ACL on a return against New Orleans. He will likely be rehabbing through offseason work; how can the Cowboys "wait" on him?

© Steven Bisig | 2014 Oct 12 | USA Today

Rolando McClain wasn't even in the club's plans for 2015, despite being the team's best linebacker in 2014. Enigmatic to say the least, McClain's commitment to the game of football every other day but gameday is highly questionable. Nothing about 2015 has changed this impression of him.

These aren't the only scheduled Cowboys free agents in 2016. There are 18 players in total who have taken a snap for the Cowboys in 2015 who will be some sort of free agent come March.

Mack Bernadeau G UFA
Charles Brown OT UFA
Matt Cassel QB UFA
Morris Claiborne CB UFA
Tyler Clutts FB UFA
Jack Crawford DE UFA
Lance Dunbar RB UFA
James Hanna TE UFA
Greg Hardy DE UFA
Nick Hayden DT UFA
Jeff Heath S RFA
Cam Lawrence LB RFA
Ron Leary G RFA
Rolando McClain LB UFA
Danny McCray S UFA
Jeremy Mincey DE UFA
Robert Turbin RB UFA
Kyle Wilber LB UFA

Yet still, Free Agents come and go every year; it's status quo in today's NFL. The real shockwaves seem to arrive when a team says goodbye to a player who still has years remaining on their contract. Here's a look at 5 key players who might be playing their final games in a Cowboys uniform, and how likely we see it being that the team decides to move on.

Position Player, Tenure With Team
Total Dead $ / Cap Savings Percent Chance


1. Sean Lee
2010 Draft (2nd)



This is the move that is least likely to happen, but keep an eye on the future. Lee's dead money here is more than what it would cost to keep him, but he should be mentioned here anyway. (June 1st'ing Lee would save them $3m against his expected 2016 cap hit of $5.95m). Expect the team to do everything they can to find his successor, as they can't continue to be handcuffed by his unreliability. I'd imagine that Lee would be asked to take a paycut in return for more guaranteed money in future years, or be shown the door following the 2016 season. 

Position Player, Tenure With Team
Total Dead $ / Cap Savings Percent Chance


2. Brandon Carr
2012 Free Agency

$7.434m / $6.383m


Carr has been much maligned since signing in Dallas in 2012. It was a bad year for the free agent quarterback class and Dallas was desperate; hoping the No. 2 corner in KC had the juice to become a No. 1. He didn't and his 5 year $50m deal is finally to the point Dallas can escape it. Carr is scheduled to make a whopping $9.1m in base salary, so despite having plenty of dead money, Dallas would reap some savings by moving on from this player and focusing their attention elsewhere.

Position Player, Tenure With Team
Total Dead $ / Cap Savings Percent Chance


3. Jason Witten
2003 Draft (3rd)

$4.224m / $4.388m


It's admittedly far-fetched to imagine a Cowboys offense captained by Tony Romo that doesn't include Jason Witten, but it does warrant mentioning. Witten's base salary of $6.5m looks attractive from a cost-cutting perspective, but what is this offense without Witten as the security blanket? The surefire HOF candidate, Witten's best days as a target are likely behind him, but he still is better than the majority of NFL TE's. Barring injury forcing Romo's hand at retirement (which shouldn't be dismissed), expect the Senator to remain with the Star. 

Position Player, Tenure With Team
Total Dead $ / Cap Savings Percent Chance


4. Barry Church
2010 UDFA

$500,000 / $2.75m


Barry Church is yet another of the Dallas Cowboys UDFA success stories, but his time in Dallas might have run out. The situation in Dallas' secondary has not been good, and the inability of any of the three safeties to identify themselves has been maddening. Church's future in Dallas could hinge on the decision the staff will make in what they choose to do with Byron Jones. Or, Jones' position flex could help mold Dallas' decision based on the best and most cost effective upgrades available in the defensive back group in general. Church has been playing through lower leg injuries, but remains as one of the most replaceable player getting major snaps for the club. 

Position Player, Tenure With Team
Total Dead $ / Cap Savings Percent Chance


5. Doug Free
2007 Draft (4th)

$3m / $2.5m


Free is the elder statesman of the Cowboys offensive line, but his penalty rate has reached ridiculous levels. The problem is that the team hasn't seen anything out of 3rd round pick Chaz Green as they have to make a decision this week whether to activate him from PUP or redshirt him for the entire season. Free is serviceable, but definitely upgradeable. 

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