The Cowboys will not pursue Peyton Manning. They are quite happy with quarterback Tony Romo.
But that doesn't mean the Cowboys will leave any stone unturned in their plans to upgrade the personnel through free agency and the draft.
The Cowboys made their first big decision of the offseason when they tagged linebacker Anthony Spencer as their franchise player, guaranteeing him about $8.8 million next season.
That was a huge decision not just because of Spencer's less than dominant and certainly not franchise-worthy play since being a first-round pick in 2007 but because the team only had $12.6 million in cap room.
The Cowboys felt they had no choice because there are no in-house answers and no immediate help on the free-agent market. They do believe Spencer is a quality player who they can get more production out of if they use him differently.
Regarding the cap hit, the Cowboys can lower the number if they sign him to a long-term deal. But they are not ready to do that and would prefer to let him play out the franchise tag and continue to prove he deserves a long-term commitment.
But there is no doubt that it could impact their ability to make other moves because it's a huge chunk against the cap.
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The Cowboys also created room or rather kept money off the books by deciding to only tender one restricted free agent, fullback Tony Fiammetta, which will cost about $1.26 million next season.
And of course the Cowboys will be able to gain additional room when they part ways with cornerback Terence Newman, who is expected to be released. The Cowboys can create between $4 million and $6 million in cap room by releasing Newman.
The Cowboys plan to make the decision with Newman before free agency begins March 13.
They plan to be major players at cornerback in free agency and will likely target the top two on the board in Kansas City's Brandon Carr and Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan.
No matter what the Cowboys do in free agency at cornerback they will still target the position in the draft as the need for multiple cornerbacks is great. Only Mike Jenkins and nickel back Scandrick are set for next season and Jenkins is in the final year of his contract.
Other positions of focus for the Cowboys as they head into free agency next week and then the draft are guard, safety, backup tight end and backup quarterback.
New Orleans guard Carl Nicks played under offensive line coach Bill Callahan in college at Nebraska, making him an intriguing option especially since he is considered one of the best interior lineman not just on the market but in the NFL.
Several safeties the Cowboys might have targeted to replace Abe Elam were franchised. LaRon Landry will be available but there is a question as to what his price tag might be. The Cowboys like Elam but don't view him as a long-term solution at the position and they would like an upgrade.
The Cowboys need a backup tight end behind Jason Witten as Martellus Bennett has no interest in coming back as a free agent. He wants an opportunity as a starter and the Cowboys will not stand in his way as he never lived up to expectations in Dallas.
The Cowboys want a veteran quarterback option to compete with Stephen McGee for the backup role behind Tony Romo. McGee has not yet proved he can be counted on to win if Romo was out for an extended period of time.
|Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) in action against the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium. (Matthew Emmons- US PRESSWIRE) 11/21/2010|
--Coach Jason Garrett said the reason the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on linebacker Anthony Spencer, guaranteeing him $8.8 million next season, is they believe he is one of the better outside linebackers in the league.
Never mind that Spencer has never had more than six sacks in a season since being a first-round pick in 2007; the Cowboys value his contributions as a run stopper and in coverage. They say he makes the team better.
"We look at production. We look at how he produces week in and week out," Garrett said. "It's more than just sacks. He shows up in games. ... You compare him to guys around the league who play his position. He's among the better outside linebackers in the 3-4 defense."
Last year, he was the Cowboys' third-leading tackler, had the second most quarterback hurries, second most quarterback hits and led the team with four forced fumbles, including one that sealed a victory in a Monday night game against the Washington Redskins.
"He was the outstanding player on our team in, I think, two or three of our wins that we had this year in our season," Garrett said. "He's a guy who shows up on defense. He showed up on special teams. He blocked a field goal. He's one of those guys who's productive, and his production happened in a lot of different ways. We're excited to have him back, to be a part of what our defense is going to be."
What's also true is that they have no answers to replace him and there are no upgrades in free agency. The Cowboys will still likely pursue a pass rusher in the draft.
It's a one-year decision for the Cowboys who at the current moment are not pursuing a long-term deal with Spencer to lower the cap number.
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