INDIANAPOLIS – The Cowboys have 15 unrestricted free agents and with the signing period to begin March 12, it's likely most of them will get the chance to hit the market.
In fact, don't expect more than two or three of the Cowboys' UFAs to be playing in Dallas next season.
Of course, the big one is Anthony Spencer, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season and will be looking to cash in on a contract that will likely pay the six-year veteran in the range of $10-12 million per season. The Cowboys could prevent Spencer from signing with another team too easily by placing the $10.63 million franchise tag on him. But that seems unlikely considering the Cowboys are already $20 million over the cap and must create some room by March 12. Spencer played last season under the $8.8 million tag.
Among the free agents who could be back include long snapper L.P. Ladouceur, an eight-year veteran. The Cowboys met with Ladouceur's agent Thursday in Indianapolis and a deal could get worked out before the free-agent signing period. Ladouceur has been one of the most consistent snappers in the league since the Cowboys signed him early in the 2005 season.
Other players who have a shot to return include safety Eric Frampton and tight end John Phillips, the backup to Jason Witten last season. But with the emergence of James Hanna late last year, the Cowboys won't likely dole out tons of cash for Phillips. But his versatility as a pass-catcher and blocker, as well as special teams contributor, gives him enough value to keep around.
Frampton was signed three games into the season but led the Cowboys in special teams tackles with 21.
Victor Butler will likely get to test the market but his return to the Cowboys could hinge on Spencer's situation. If Spencer does not return, Butler's value might be enhanced, although with the move to the 4-3 defense, Butler doesn't exactly fit in the base defense. If he returns, it will likely best as a pass-rushing specialist.
And don't rule out Ernie Sims, who started six games at inside linebacker with Bruce Carter and Sean Lee injured. The Cowboys are expected to cut Dan Connor, which could open up a spot for Sims to compete if re-signed.
The big-name free agents such as Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins and Kevin Ogletree are not expected back at all. The same goes for Kenyon Coleman, Brady Poppinga, Derrick Dockery, Brian Moorman, Michael Coe and Charlie Peprah.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Brian Moorman P
Michael Coe CB
Mike Jenkins CB
Charlie Peprah S
Eric Frampton S
Felix Jones RB
Victor Butler LB
Ernie Sims LB
Derrick Dockery G
Kevin Ogletree WR
John Phillips TE
Louis-Philippe Ladouceur LS
Anthony Spencer LB
Brady Poppinga LB
Kenyon Coleman DT