Cowboys Miss Out on OL; Eye 3 Kickers

The Cowboys have a short list for free agent kickers and free agent offensive tackles. That, all by itself, is good news. brings you up to speed on early free agency news and rumors, in this report!

The Ranch Report has learned of two potential free-agent players at important need positions who the Cowboys have ranked in their "top-three-positional'' wish list.

One of the players, Dallas is "in love with'' but he will apparently wed another. The other player, Dallas had previously flirted with but now will court again.

Detroit offensive tackle Jeff Backus and Tampa Bay kicker Matt Bryant are the two guys who sources tell us are scribbled up very high on the Valley Ranch target board.

As you now know, the Lions have placed the franchise designate on Backus. That essentially ends Dallas' hopeful pursuit of him (but doesn't end a piece of good news at tackle, which we'll get to in a moment).

The Cowboys, said a close source to the situation, "are absolutely in love with Backus.'' "Love'' might not be quite the right word for Dallas' interest in Bryant; after all, he was in the Cowboys' camp not so long ago when Dallas made the fateful decision to go with Billy Cundiff. But a source tells us that ranking behind New England's Adam Vinatieri and Indy's Mike Vanderjagt, and right alongside the rest, is none other than Bryant, who had a fine season with the Bucs and is now available again.

"My bet," a source tells us, is that (Dallas) will get one of those three: Vinatieri, Vanderjagt or Bryant."

The Bryant connection goes beyond his cup of coffee with the club; he's a Baylor product, as is Cowboys personnel boss Jeff Ireland. And he's represented by Dallas-based agent Jordan Woy, who has a long and good history of working with the Cowboys.

The best news out of all this? The Cowboys have recognized two trouble spots and are trying to seal 'em up with something stronger than Band-Aids. We're told the team personnel department still has positive things to say about the prospects of tackles Rob Pettiti, Torrin Tucker and even offensive lineman Jacob Rogers. But by virtue of having done their just-in-case homework on Backus, they are obvious not willing to settle at tackle. (Investigations into the Jets' Jason Fabini and the Bills' Mike Williams surely come next.)

Same thing in the case of the kicker, where Dallas wants a front-line guy -- and simply needs to make certain it hires the right front-line guy.

A few other gossip items:

* Rocket Ismail is telling friends in Dallas that he plans to make an NFL comeback and that the Cowboys are among the teams he's talking to. We, um, simply don't know what to make of that one.

* The tackle Dallas eventually signs will be a right tackle. The Cowboys feel good about Flozell Adams' return from injury to man left tackle.

* There are NFL people outside of Valley Ranch who are convinced the Cowboys need a FA linebacker to replace Dat.

* Young running back Tyson Thompson is going Hollywood -- at least for a very short time. The running back/kick returner has been offered a chance to intern with "Extra,'' the TV entertainment show. We're assured this will be a gig that in no way gets in the way of football.

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