There are a great number of issues facing the Cowboys this off season. The most intriguing and easiest to discuss, involves player moves. The Cowboys clearly need to shake up the roster and some significant moves should, and will, be made. While DFW is in arctic-lockdown mode, I felt compelled to give my two-cents regarding the Cowboys off season personnel moves.
Sooner or later the CBA will be signed and when it is the Cowboys will need to move quickly to upgrade their roster. While they should look at getting younger in several areas, veteran leadership and playoff experience are necessary ingredients.
Doug Free (LT – DALLAS COWBOYS): The Cowboys made a wise move in opting to start Doug Free at Left Tackle. Free held his own against some of the best pass-rushers in the game such as Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora. He has the ability to become an elite Left Tackle in the league and could anchor the Cowboys’ offensive line for years to come. The Cowboys must lock him up at the earliest opportunity and load his contract with incentives to help keep Tony Romo from suffering another season ending injury.
Logan Mankins (G – NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS): I know he’s not the sexy free agent, but it’s not every day that an elite offensive lineman gets into such a tiff with his head coach that he decides to leave a sure Super Bowl contender. But that is exactly the scenario playing out in New England. The Cowboys should capitalize on this opportunity (like they should have when the same situation unfolded with Adam Vinatieri). Mankins is only 28 and is a three time Pro Bowler. He has played a key role in keeping Tom Brady upright and he could do wonders for Tony Romo. Mankins would be a considerable upgrade over Kyle Koiser and provide a serious jolt to the Cowboys offensive line.
Jonathan Joseph (CB – CINCINNATI BENGALS): Rob Ryan spent two years in Cleveland and had the opportunity to watch the Bengals defense in four different games. Surely, he is already speaking to the Cowboys brass regarding the possibility of signing Jonathan Joseph. A lot of money will be spent chasing the likes of Champ Bailey, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Antonio Cromartie. The crowded field should push the price tag for Joseph down and the Cowboys should lock him up quickly. The competition for the top two corner spots should be fierce and would provide the Cowboys with instant depth (Newman, Joseph, Jenkins, Scandrick, and McCann).
Worth an Offer:
Paul Oliver (SS – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS): Oliver is a converted Corner Back who backs up San Diego Strong Safety Steve Gregory. He started 8 games this year in place of Gregory and recorded 47 tackles, 3 passes defended, an interception, and a forced fumble. He is itching for a chance to start and Dallas should provide him one. He is relatively inexpensive but could provide a new punch in the Cowboys Secondary.
Brodney Pool (FS – NEW YORK JETS): Pool was once a star in Cleveland and could be again. After playing a year in New York he’ll be looking for a long term contract the Jets may not be willing to offer. The Cowboys should take the opportunity to tender a reasonable offer for a serious upgrade in the Secondary.
Antonio Cromartie (CB – NEW YORK JETS): The second of three Jets worth offering contracts to, Cormartie showed he still possess serious skill. Cromartie was drummed out of San Diego but did not seem to have the same issues on Rex’s team. He will be looking for a long term deal and if the price is right the Cowboys could give him one. This move only makes sense, however, if the Cowboys are prepared to trade or cut Newman or Jenkins.
Shaun Ellis (DE – NEW YORK JETS): With all the Free Agents the Jets have to sign this year, Shaun Ellis could be the odd man out. He is still a solid pass rusher and has one more high-paying contract in him. The Cowboys could make him a sensible offer as a possible upgrade to their defensive line. A lineup including DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Shaun Ellis would be daunting for any offensive line.
Other options: Eric Smith (FS – NEW YORK JETS), Eric Weddle (FS – SAN DIEGO CHARGERS), Quintin Mikell (SS – PHILADELPHIA EAGLES), Jason Hatcher (DE – DALLAS COWBOYS), Champ Bailey (CB – DENVER BRONCOS), Ike Taylor (CB – PITTSBURGH STEELERS), Alan Faneca (G – ARIZONA CARDINALS), Richard Seymour (DT – OAKLAND RAIDERS)
CUTS AND TRADES
Martellus Bennett – Trade: Bennett is the only Cowboy who could realistically return value. He has significant upside and a low paying contract. Last year there were rumors that the Bengals were offering a Second Round pick for Bennett. The Cowboys should have taken it. Now, they probably couldn’t get more than a Third Rounder and this year they should take it. Jason Witten is a Hall of Famer and John Phillips looks like a potential stud, Martellus is definitely expendable.
Jon Kitna – Trade: The time is now to capitalize on Kitna’s stellar performance in Romo’s absence. Several teams will be looking for starting caliber quarterbacks and many of the teams who are going to be picking elite QB’s in the first two rounds (Arizona, San Francisco, Washington, etc) would like to have a solid Plan-B like Kitna. Stephen McGee should be given the opportunity to prove he could go somewhere and get enough reps to show his true potential.
Marion Barber – Cut: The Cowboys won’t get any real value for Barber at this point. Plus, he clearly has a less than friendly relationship with new Head Coach Jason Garrett. Barber will need to go sign elsewhere for a significantly reduced rate to try and return to his “barbarian” status.
There has been a lot of debate about what the Cowboys should do with the 9th pick in the draft. To me, there are only two options, draft Prince Amakumara if he’s still on the board or one of the elite pass rushers (my preference is Von Miller). Otherwise, the Cowboys should trade down with either Minnesota or Miami. One of those two would likely be willing to offer up a Second or Third Rounder to jump Washington and select their particular coveted Quarterback.
Then the Cowboys would be in position to draft the best defensive or offensive lineman on the board. Armed with additional picks in rounds 2-4 (assuming the above trades) the Cowboys could go a long way to overhauling the offensive line and upgrading the defense.
My Hopeful Starting Lineups for 2011:
LT – Doug Free, LG – Logan Mankins, C – Phil Costa, RG – Andre Gurode, RT – Leonard Davis
TE – Jason Witten, WR1 – Dez Bryant, WR2 – Miles Austin, RB – Tashard Choice, FB – Chris Gronkowski
QB – Tony Romo
RE – Jay Ratliff, NT – Josh Brent, LE – Jason Hatcher
ROLB – DeMarcus Ware, RILB – Sean Lee, LILB – Bradie James, LOLB – Von Miller (1st Round Pick)
RCB – Jonathan Joseph, LCB – Mike Jenkins, SS – Paul Oliver, FS – Terence Newman
LS – LP Ladoucer, P – Matt McBriar, K – Kris Brown, KO – David Buehler, KOR – Dez Bryant, PR – Bryan McCann