Today is the official start of the 2014 business year for the NFL. What better way to kick of the league festivities than with the free-for-all known as Free Agency. Much has been written about the Cowboys and their position to acquire free agents due to their (mis)managements regarding their salary cap. We all know that Dallas must be frugal when combing over the possible options to improve the roster. Picking the right player to bring in will be key as the margin for error is slim when you have so few chances.
I think we can all agree that the predominant need is on defense. I wrote a piece earlier in the week describing how nice Darren Sproles would look with a blue Star on his helmet but if we cannot convince him to come on board, all the focus should be defensively. Any of the three units could use a serious upgrade, but one in particular stands out to me. It may not be overtly obvious, but I think that the Cowboys should put their efforts into finding help for Barry Church and look towards the safety position first and foremost via free agency.
The reasons for this thought process are several.
1. I know Jason Garrett and the Joneses have publicly came out and said they like the youth and depth of this position. I think that’s laughable. Matt Johnson is a never was. Jeff Heath tried his best but he is best suited for a backup role and special teams contributor and J.J. Wilcox looked lost during most of his rookie campaign. This unit combined for just two interceptions, four fumbles forced and two recovered. Most all of that came from Church who played at a level just below Pro-Bowl consideration last year which is a miracle considering who he had next to him.
2. While the Cowboys DESPERATELY need help on the line, most of the options available are quite frankly out of the Cowboys budget. You want Henry Melton? Guess what so do the Bucs and two or three other teams. You think he’s taking a sweetheart deal just because Rod Marinelli is here? Marinell’s best friend is the head coach in Tampa Bay and the Bucs have over $20 million more to spend than Dallas does. I’d rather draft a young stud or two who isn’t coming off a blown out knee anyways.
3. Any of the linebackers you’d really want sadly fall into this category as well. Besides all this recent talk of Wesley Woodyard which may or may not come into fruition, look at some of the deals the upper echelon linebackers have already received before free agency officially started. Jason Worlids got almost $10 million for one year. Donald Butler re-upped for $52 million over 7 years and D’Qwell Jackson pulled $22 million on a four-year deal. I am going to look towards the draft here as well as a lot of mock drafts have seen All-SEC beast C.J. Mosely from Alabama fall into the Cowboys range
4. Corner backs always get paid in free agency. Like stupid paid. The three that already signed deals (Brent Grimes, Sam Shields & DeAngelo Hall) banked almost $90 million combined. There is still some big time talents waiting on their gravy train as well like Aqib Talib, Alterran Verner and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
That brings us back to the safeties. I am sure that guys like Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward are going to see big money wind falls but after that, the market could be fairly reasonable. Given that Louis Delmas just signed a one year deal with Miami for $3.5 million and Bernard Pollard signed for two years and $6.3 million, it’s completely possible that Dallas could find a solid option that is budget friendly.
Chris Clemons, Mike Mitchell, Stevie Brown and Nick Collins would all be massive upgrades to whatever is already on the roster and none of them should command more than $2 million per year. This would give the Cowboys plenty of time to evaluate if Wilcox can ever make the leap to being a real player while not giving up big play after big play in order to find out the hard way. It also allows for the focus of the draft to remain on the front seven which will ultimately help out the back end anyways.
That is how bargain shopping can still be bountiful.