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 where some of these expected free agents are anxious for, to see exactly where they stand and kind of value they 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.
Daniel Ross (ERFA)
Ross is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning he doesn't really have much leverage at all in this situation. Usually, if the team wants to bring him back, it becomes a done deal and that should likely be the case here. Ross was a solid rotational defender that provided some depth and will be brought back to the mix.
Making the Case: There's not much of a case here. Ross earned $555,000 and will probably get a contract offer around $650,000 for 2019. That's an affordable price for an active role player such as Ross.
Forecast: Expect Ross to return to his "Hot Boyz" role as a key component to the defensive tackle rotation. The Cowboys will probably address the position in the draft and maybe free agency, but there should be a place for Ross to compete for his spot once again.
Rod Smith, RB
Last year, Smith rushed for just 177 yards and one TD, which came in the season finale with Elliott sitting out. He wasn't much of a factor in the offense, but did have a primary role on special teams.
Making the Case: The case to keep Smith would likely hinge on his 2017 success, which was attributed to Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension, which offered more touches for Smith, who showed out as both a runner and receiver. Last year, Smith didn't get a ton of looks with Zeke eventually leading the NFL in rushing, but he didn't have those breakout moments we saw the year before.
Forecast: Free agency will offer Smith the chance to find a better offensive fit. His pass-catching ability and unique size for a running back, not to mention his special teams experience, could be a good fit for another squad. His chances of returning don't seem high but things can always change.
David Irving, DT
Irving was suspended four games to start the 2018 season and only played in two games last year when he was eligible, because of a high-ankle sprain. This year, he was suspended again by the NFL indefinitely.
Making the Case: The case to sign him back would hinge on the fact he is a really good player when he's on the field. However, that was a problem the last two years and even his unique pass-rush ability doesn't make up for the uncertainty that always surrounds his availability.
Forecast: The silence regarding Irving from both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett over the last two weeks suggest he has played in last games with the Cowboys.