Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it all earlier this week: "I'm not happy with it at all. But as you well know, I don't think anyone particularly cares how happy I am."
In a nutshell, it all depends on the source of the happiness or unhappiness.
If the topic at hand is the newly approved six-year CBA extension and labor peace, you're right Jerry, no one cares. However, if the subject matter pertains to assembling talent and pursuit of Super Bowls, then the masses greatly care which way your happiness winds are blowing.
Regardless of salary cap finality, the Cowboys were going to venture in, and with the monies increased roughly $10 million, expect the Boys to not only venture, but also benchmark. So, with the labor headaches subsiding, let's turn to a more fan-centric subject matter… the top 5 free agent targets for your Dallas Cowboys.
The approach will throw out "nice" and focus on "necessary." The salary cap, and its final resolution being a factor, free agency selections have to make sense concerning cents.
Many releases (of the La'Roi Glover mold) have already transpired, and some teams have tipped their hands by letting go of players only to have the transaction rescinded when labor negotiations lingered and the start of free agency was continually delayed. Even with all the starts, stops and speculation, the Cowboys have not shown their cards or revealed their free agency plans. With this in mind, let's have them dealt five gems in hopes of raking in Lombardi No. 6 in Miami.
In descending order of most likely to remotely possible, let's start with the linebackers, outside and inside. If the Cowboys don't address this need via free agency, in a year when the market is saturated with available talent and the upcoming draft is LB-rich, they'll be missing a golden opportunity to plug a few holes, create needed depth and possibly add veteran leadership and a locker room presence.
Let's address the latter first, even though it falls into the remotely possible category. It's recommended, at the right cost, Willie McGinest joins the ranks in Dallas. Even if a spot player and edge rusher, his addition would be most-welcomed on a team desperately seeking success on the next level. McGinest knows what it takes to win, how to teach youngsters and has a knack for getting after the passer. Yes, he has a few miles logged, but he's still highly productive for his age, has a few years left in the tank and possesses leadership abilities for which there is no monetary measure. Do you think Demarcus Ware could learn a few things from this former world champion? Let's free Willie.
It's thought the Cowboys should grab two, if not three (the resigning of Fujita might negate this) LB's in free agency if the monetary parameters are feasible. Pass on the recognizable names like Julian Peterson and LaVar Arrington, instead considering the likes of Akin Ayodele, Ben Leber and Na'il Diggs. Each possesses the girth (each weighing in at 240+) Parcells covets, none are over the age of 30, and there are no apparent injury concerns (historical or lingering). It's just a matter of inside or outside. If McGinest is brought in, and a second LB is sought, the selection is Diggs, giving the Cowboys an inside and outside presence. If no McGinest, the choices are Ayodele and Diggs.
Free safety is all about cost and experience; little of one and heavy on the other.
The list starts and stops with Marcus Coleman. He's savvy and experienced and should come reasonably priced. A little long in the tooth, but his resume denotes Parcells' acquaintance, and as all have witnessed, familiarity with the coach accounts for something. Henry, Newman and Roy command the heavy dollars, and the Cowboys shouldn't lock up another high-priced secondary member. Chris Hope is appealing, but a free safety departing the Super Bowl champ tends to carry a hefty price tag. Just ask former Cowboy corner Larry Brown and the gullible Al Davis. Will Demps is another attractive name, but he's coming off a serious injury, and the recovery jury is still sequestered. Marcus Coleman would provide the stability of a Brock Marion, and if the Cowboys were to come clean, he (Marion) was needed last year.
Defensive tackle could also be a target in the free agency market, and there are plenty of gap stuffers to consider. Available players include Sam Adams, Ted Washington, Grady Jackson, Maake Kemoeatu, Larry Triplett and Texas A&M's own Rocky Bernard. Bernard would be the preferred choice, but of the entire group, he'll also command the most money including the anticipated signing bonus. Again, insert Super Bowl participant next to Bernard's name and watch the asking price soar.
The Cowboys have many needs, which could be addressed in free agency, but the offensive side of the ball, specifically the interior line, still reigns as priority #1 this off season. Larry Allen is the key piece to the entire puzzle. At a minimum, he must restructure his current contract to lighten the cap hit. His "sacrifice for the team" capability is critical for the personnel department's ability to address other positions on the line.
While highly coveted and possessing the skills to anchor a line for a decade to come, LeCharles Bentley has to be handed the reluctant "pass." He's certainly in the top three of all free agents sought, and when signed, his salary and upfront bonus will be astronomical for a center. Kevin Mawae has the integral Jets' tie, but age and size are not in his corner. Odds are the decision will come down to Al Johnson, Andre Gurode or the dreaded combination routine. Jerry, stick to the guards and tackles.
Like Bentley, Steve Hutchinson will be one pricey proposition, and with Allen's situation in limbo, the focus should turn squarely to Jason Fabini and call it a day. The proverbial broken record is in play here. Parcells' guy. Enough said. A Jason Fabini vs. Rob Petitti training camp battle has tremendous potential and appeal. Petitti needs this, and Parcells would love to see the youngster do battle with the cagey vet. What about Buffalo cast-off Mike Williams, you say? The last thing this team needs is a mentor in underachievement. His positives are he's big, and, well, he's big. Not much to go with the size factor. One Fabini to go please.
Dan Campbell's departure (sad story for another day) screams full back emphasis. Lousaka Polite, or, yes, another Parcells' pupil, Jerald Sowell? Prior to venturing this direction, Parcells and Chris Palmer need to clarify the offensive scheme and desired structure. The position could take on significance, but hold the free agency phone on this one. Full back can be addressed way down priority road. Conversely, if the Cowboys jump on Sowell out of the gate, the offensive scheme will have been intimated to all.
Let's end this thing with absolute controversy. First, the absolute. A free agent place kicker must be purchased. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Get it done, and get it done now! Big Bill, it's your choice, Matt Bryant or Ryan Longwell? Those are your only two options that balance fiscal responsibility, experience and the capability of both kicking off and nailing field goals. So, which will it be?
Thus, leaving the controversial, most talked about and anticipated story, not only leading into training camp, but also signifying a Jones' hire of noteworthy status dating back to the arrival of "Primetime" Deion Sanders. Jerry's "ka-boom" impact that has been both anticipated and lying dormant for years. Terrell Owens, welcome to Dallas. Good-bye Keyshawn Johnson. If these moves are to happen, the Cowboys Nation, will know for sure inside of a week. Owens will be released no later than March 11th, and Key is due a $1+ million dollar roster bonus days following the anticipated Owens' release. Something has to give one way or the other, and when it does, Katie bar the door, and let the fireworks begin.
The message boards and forums on this Website will never be the same. Debates will rage for months, and even presidential campaigns won't be able to compete. Let the games begin.
In conclusion, and in rank order, from highest to lowest, the Cowboys need to reel in these five lunkers:
1. Matt Bryant
2. Jason Fabini
3. Marcus Coleman
4. Akin Ayodele
5. Terrell Owens
Jerry, grab the worms and your wallet, we're going fishing. That of the free agency charter. Get the hooks baited and the lines in the water. School is about to commence. The identified five above still leaves plenty of financial room (of the cap nature) for the likes of Willie McGinest consideration.
Ready. Set. Spend!
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