The start to the NFL's free-agent signing period is March 13. But the Cowboys, like all teams, can negotiate contracts with their own free agents before they hit the open market.
Of course, that market is exactly what some of these expected free agents are anxious for, to see exactly where they stand and what kind of value they can offer to other teams, or perhaps the Cowboys once again.
Today, let's take a closer look at a handful of free agents-to-be for the Cowboys and make a case for them to either return or hit the open market.
Caraun Reid, DT
The Cowboys signed him to the roster twice last year out of necessity, thanks to multiple injuries. By the end of the year, Reid was a rotational player and was active in the two playoff games.
Making the Case: The Cowboys likely won't have David Irving back and Antwaun Woods is coming off surgery. With Randy Gregory facing a possible suspension, Tyrone Crawford could be playing more defensive end. So there could be a need for an inside rusher such as Reid.
Forecast: Look for the Cowboys to let Reid test the market. In fact, he might be on there for a while. If he doesn't sign with another team, expect the Cowboys to keep tabs on him, but it makes more sense to try and upgrade the spot through the draft. If he's still out there, the Cowboys will certainly keep an eye on him.
Geoff Swaim, TE
Things have changed a bit at the tight end position in the last week. Obviously, the return of Jason Witten might change the possibility of Swaim coming back. Witten will likely be the starter again but there is some upside in both Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz. Swaim has been a good player, but injuries have been an issue.
Making the Case: Before Witten came back, he was the team's most complete tight end. However, the injuries have been problematic as he played only nine games in 2018. But they did keep four tight ends on the team last year, so it's not out of the question to keep him.
Forecast: Look for Swaim to aggressively hit the market next week. There will likely be some attention from teams hoping to acquire a young tight end who can fill a backup role. But if the money is reasonable, don't rule out the Cowboys bringing him back at an affordable price.
Damien Wilson, LB
His four years with the Cowboys have been rather quiet. Wilson has received some opportunities to shine, but in the Dallas defensive scheme, which features a lot of nickel packages, Wilson hasn't been on the field every snap. He has made some standout plays on special teams and he's got great athleticism, which will be attractive for other teams that play more base defense.
Making the Case: The Cowboys have questions to answer with Sean Lee, who is expected back but perhaps at a different price tag. If Lee does return, coupled with Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, it could be rather crowded at the linebacker spot.
Forecast: Wilson gets to see what his value is on the market. The Cowboys will closely monitor what he does and where he visits, and will also get a good read on the likes of Chris Covington, who is entering his second year. A return to the Cowboys is still possible for Wilson, but it seems like it makes more sense for both sides to have a change.
Tavon Austin, WR
He was acquired last year to provide a spark in the offense and that never really materialized for a couple of reasons. Not only did he miss 10 games due to injury, but he wasn't a featured part of coordinator Scott Linehan's offense. Maybe Kellen Moore would use him differently if given the chance?
Making the Case: The Cowboys don't really have a speedster like Austin and haven't for a long time. What he provides on special teams is also rare, and that was on display in the playoff game against Seattle.
Forecast: Austin won't be the top priority for the Cowboys, who also have Cole Beasley hitting the market. Look for Austin to get some looks from other teams, and if the Cowboys end up retaining Beasley, there might not be room for Austin as well. However, it might be easier to bring back Austin over Beasley. This one will be interesting for sure.