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Eatman: Don’t Expect Same Free-Agency Splash As 2012

Posted Feb 6, 2013

As we celebrate this holiday known as National Signing Day, it brings me back to a day or two last March.

The fax machines were blowing up with contract offers here at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys got Brandon Carr and Kyle Orton, followed by Nate Livings and Dan Connor. From a free agency standpoint, the Cowboys were one of most aggressive teams last year and jumped right in the mix early.

Hope that was fun for the fans. Don’t expect that to happen this year when free agency begins in mid-March.

In fact, do you remember what happened in 2010? Of course you don’t because nothing happened, other than re-signing unrestricted free agent Montrae Holland to a two-year deal about a month into free agency. But that was it.

And that might be closer to what the Cowboys do this year in free agency.

Ok, I’m not saying there won’t be any new veteran players on this team.

But as far as a splash goes, don’t count on it.

If anything, the biggest splash the Cowboys could make is to re-sign Anthony Spencer, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season and should warrant something in the neighborhood of $10-12 million per season. Remember when everyone went nuts at the $8.8 million franchise tag Spencer got last year? It’s going to take a lot more now to retain him.

Personally, I don’t think the Cowboys will keep Spencer next year because I think he’s going to test the market first and there will be some big-time money out there for him. Surely the Cowboys want him back and I bet he wouldn’t mind staying here. But the second contract is the biggest contract of a player’s career. He’s got to take the best deal for him and I’m guessing it’ll probably be somewhere else.

Remember, the Cowboys are currently about $20 million over the cap right now. So if you’re thinking Spencer being gone saves any money, that’s not accurate. The Cowboys are over the limit now and it doesn’t include a dime to Spencer, who is a free agent.

However, the Cowboys will have the ability to move some money around to not only get under the cap, but possibly have some breathing room to sign a few players.

The Cowboys could cut players like Doug Free and Dan Connor to get about $10 million back on this year’s cap. Restructuring deals for guys like Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Miles Austin could free up about $15-20 million.

And if Tony Romo gets a new deal this offseason, it would actually save the team a few millions on this year’s cap. (Of course it will be overshadowed by the overall amount of the deal, his lack of playoff success and his age. Still it will be a cap-friendly deal on the short-term.)

So when you see all these players that are getting cut for financial reasons, it’s only natural to think how they might fit into your team’s plans. It happens daily. Oooh what about Titus Young? Can Vanden Bosch fit here? What about bringing Peterman back?

It’s going to happen and that’s what makes football a 365-day-a-year sport. It’s part of the game. But this year, it doesn’t seem to be reality for the Cowboys.

Sure, they will do a few things in free agency, but if you’re thinking big, it could be a setup for disappointment. Unless you consider signing Spencer to be a big deal – and even that seems is somewhat of a long shot.

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