How Much of the Dallas Cowboys' Defense can Jerry Jones and Rob Ryan Re-Build in One Off-season?

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As Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett, and Rob Ryan prepare to lead the Dallas Cowboys into free agency and the 2012 draft, they must all be focused on the obvious fact that the defense is the weak leak on this team. The defense gave up 24 or more points in almost half their games last year (7 out of 16); the Cowboys lost 3 games when they scored 24 or more points.

The offense is fairly solid: the interior line and a 3rd WR (if Laurent Robinson isn’t resigned) are the only big needs other than the need for depth behind the starters. Expect the Dallas Cowboys brain-trust to be focused on rebuilding the defense this off-season.

Despite having no off-season and very little new talent (just Kenyon Coleman, Abe Elam, and Sean Lee were new starters) Rob Ryan significantly improved the defense last season. This season made it painfully obvious that Ryan needs better players before we can evaluate his ability as a Defensive Coordinator (or potential Head Coach.) Expect Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett to make all reasonable efforts to get the players that Ryan wants for his defense.

Click on the link to read about the re-building that has been started and what is left to accomplish.

Dec 11, 2011; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordiantor Rob Ryan on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium. The Giants beat the Cowboys 37-34. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

The fact that fixing the defense is the top priority was suggested by the transactions the Cowboys made in January, 2012. They signed two players, safety Justin Paplin-Ross (undrafted) and OLB Baraka Atkins( drafted by in Seattle in the 4th round in 2007), to futures contracts in early January, and they also signed defensive tackle Robert Callaway (was on Detroit’s practice squad last season) to a 3 year deal, and signed .C.J. Wilson (played 4 seasons in Carolina before being cut in September, 2011). In addition, they re-signed 2 defensive players from the practice squad: cornerback Mario Butler (undrafted 2011), linebacker Orie Lemon (undrafted 2011).

The pundits and fans are calling for a complete overhaul of the defense. The players most people want out of Dallas with (and their contract status) include:

1. Terence Newman (2008: Signed a six-year, $50.2 million contract extension through 2014. The deal contains $22.5 million guaranteed, including a $12 million signing bonus. 2011: $8 million, 2012: $6.016 million, 2013: $7,600,417, 2014: $7.5 million, 2015: Free Agent)

2. Alan Ball (Free Agent)

3. Frank Walker (Free Agent)

4. Abe Elam (Free Agent)

5. Bradie James (Free Agent)

6. Keith Brooking (Free Agent)

7. Kenyon Coleman (July, 2011: Signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract.)

And to a lesser extent:

8. Anthony Spencer (Free Agent)

9. Marcus Spears ( 2011: Signed a five-year, $19.2 million contract. The deal contains $4.2 million guaranteed, including a $3.5 million signing bonus.)

The good news is that if the Cowboys really do want to part ways with all of these players, only Spears and Newman will have any salary cap consequences.

I don’t think that most people realise how difficult it would be to replace that many players in one off-season. But anyway, lets just see what the Cowboys would need if they did ‘part-ways’ with all of the aforementioned players.

Click on the link to see a depth chart once the 9 players are gone.

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