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NFL Dallas Cowboys

These Five Dallas Cowboys Earned Their Star for 2013

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Dallas Cowboys

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys will have to make some tough choices when the season ends.

Among those choices will be which in-house free agents to re-sign and which ones to let walk via free agency. Some of the names are household names, others, not so much, but nonetheless they’ve all played a key role for the Cowboys this season.

It will ultimately come down to need, but factored into that need will be the player’s production versus his cost. If a player is producing at a high rate, then the team will find a way to compensate that player and vise-versa if a player isn’t or hasn’t produced then chances are he will not be back next season.

Next season, the Cowboys will rid themselves of about $12 million in cap penalties from the Marion Barber and Roy Williams contracts. That means the team should have some money to play with under the cap, but in order to make some moves in free agency and in the draft it would benefit the Cowboys to come to terms with some of their impending free agents, sooner rather than later. This way they can see what the team still needs and how much cap room they have to work with.

It has been customary for a team to restructure a player’s contract to give the team some wiggle room under the salary cap. The Cowboys did it in 2012 and will almost certainly have to do it again in 2013.

For example, Brandon Carr will count $16.3 million against the salary cap next season, and the Cowboys will almost certainly ask Carr to restructure. Tony Romo’s salary cap number is $17.2 million in 2013, but I think he will restructure to give the team some leeway. The Cowboys would benefit from Romo signing a long-term deal because it would bring down that salary cap number and it would guarantee that Romo would be playing football for Dallas after 2013.

The following list is of five in-house free agents, whom I think have earned the right to wear the star on their helmets for years to come.

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Danny McCray

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Danny McCray

McCray is a special teams ace and has been the starter at safety since Barry Church was lost for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon. I admit he’s not the best guy in man coverage, but his experience, as a starter, should help this team next season if Church isn’t 100 percent.

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Mike Jenkins

Barbara Johnston-USA TODAY Sports
Barbara Johnston-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Jenkins

I’ve always admired Jenkins’ toughness and attitude when playing the game of football. I know that the Cowboys have a lot of money invested in the cornerback position, but Jenkins proved his versatility this season by playing both inside against the slot receiver and outside against primary receivers.

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L.P. Ladouceur

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

L.P. Ladouceur

Ladouceur is the team’s long-snapper, and contrary to popular belief these guys don’t grow on trees. The Cowboys have a very good one and must do everything they can to hang on to him.

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Ernie Sims

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Ernie Sims

He will definitely be a cheaper option than fellow linebacker Dan Connor, and I like the fact that he has that fire in his belly once again. He came in after not having played football for months and dedicated himself to learning the defensive scheme and has been productive. I, like head coach Jason Garrett, like those kinds of players, which are hard working individuals.

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Anthony Spencer

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Spencer

Last season, I got laughed at when I said Spencer was the third best player on the defense behind Sean Lee and DeMarcus Ware. This season there’s no one who can say otherwise. Spencer has elevated his play and has been one of, if not, the best players on defense this season.

I think he’s definitely earned a contract extension. I could see the Cowboys reaching a deal with him somewhere in the 4-years/ $40 million or 5-years/$45 million range.

Jesus Flores is a Dallas Cowboys writer for RantSports.com Follow him on Twitter @SSgtFlo1