FREE AGENCY: Cowboys WR targets

In preparation for Friday's free agent feeding frenzy, teams all over the NFL spent Thursday cutting players to free up money. However, the new glut of available players doesn't mean that Dallas — or any other team — should suddenly revamp its offseason spending plans.

The list of suddenly-free players is full of marquee names, some of whom will appeal to the Cowboys and other teams, not to mention to armies of fans.

Consider some of the names of players who suddenly find themselves in search of employment: guard Randy Thomas (released by the Washington Redskins), cornerback Phillip Buchanan (Detroit Lions), defensive tackle Jamal Lewis (San Diego Chargers), running back Ladell Betts (Washington Redskins), running back Rock Cartwright (Washington Redskins), wide receiver Laveranues Coles (Cincinnati Bengals), cornerback Lito Sheppard (New York Jets), safety Antrel Rolle (Arizona Cardinals), tackle Orlando Pace, linebacker Antonio Pierce (New York Giants), tackle Tra Thomas (Jacksonville Jaguars), wide receiver Antwan Randle El (Washington Redskins), running back Jamal Lewis (Cleveland Browns) … a few years ago, more than half of this list would have appeared on the NFC and AFC Pro Bowl rosters.

While most of those names are familiar to everyone, they hold little appeal for the Cowboys. The three players who might fill needs in Dallas are Rolle, Coles and Williams, but none merits the money required to reach a contract agreement.

Rolle is the jewel of the newly released players, but will command a contract that likely will be far richer than the Cowboys want to pay. Many believe he'll get somewhere in the neighborhood of $7-8 million per year; Dallas has four years remaining on a contract with safety Ken Hamlin that pays an average of $6.5 million per season, so the chance owner Jerry Jones would want to go even higher than that for another safety is slim.

Coles spent the 2009 season with the Bengals, and wasn't ineffective, catching 43 passes for 514 yards and five touchdowns. But he is 32 years old and heading into his 11th season, and while the Cowboys need to improve at the wide receiver position — a need that becomes vital if Miles Austin gets lured away — Coles is not the answer. It's not like Dallas is in a complete rebuilding situation, so any new receiver doesn't necessarily have to be young, but Coles isn't a player who still dominates at his age. If this were Randy Moss, sure … but Coles is no Moss.

Williams was the anchor of the San Diego defensive line for the past 12 years, and is revered as one of the league's great space-eating nose tackles. Williams was the man in the middle when Wade Phillips was the Chargers' defensive coordinator, and played alongside defensive end Igor Olshansky, so familiarity is there. But no nose tackle is going to come in and unseat Jay Ratliff as the starter in Dallas, and the idea that Williams would accept a minimum contract to be a backup would not be popular. Plus, he turns 34 in April, and is generously listed at only 348 pounds, and played in just one game last season. Dallas could re-sign Junior Siavii for far less money, and probably get a better — or at least healthier — player.

But there are a few receivers out there who make sense for the Cowboys, and would allow them to address other positions in the draft:

The Houston Texans would love to keep wide receiver Kevin Walter, but if he is allowed to hit the open market, he is a player the Cowboys should investigate immediately. The 6-3, 218-pound veteran has seven seasons under his belt, and has 178 catches for 2,310 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns over his last three seasons. He's big, fast and tough, and can play outside or in the slot.

Remember Chris Chambers, the wide receiver from the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers? Turns out he's still playing, although nobody knew it because it was with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers released him after seven games last year, and after getting picked up by Kansas City, Chambers quietly caught 36 passes for 608 yards and four touchdowns. He still has the speed to get deep, and would be a nice second or third receiver.

His contract history likely would make him the most expensive of the three, but Seattle's Nate Burleson is effective on a year-in, year-out basis; nobody knows about him because he plays in the NFL's Siberia. He caught 63 passes for 812 yards last year, and thrives on the short and intermediate routes. His presence, coupled with Austin's return, could make the Dallas passing attack pretty diverse.

CowboysHQ Top Stories