IRVING, Texas – With free agency beginning on March 12, the Cowboys have several decisions to make regarding the improvement of this team.
Last year, they were extremely aggressive in free agency, signing seven players, including Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton and Dan Connor in the first two days of the signing period.
Don't expect that kind of frenzy this year. In fact, it could be rather slow depending on how much cap room the Cowboys have by March 12.
But over the next week, all three DallasCowboys.com staff writers will help break down five different positions that could be intriguing for the Cowboys in free agency.
Today, we'll continue with wide receivers and tight ends.
What They Have:
There were some thoughts about the Cowboys possibly parting ways with Miles Austin for financial reasons, but that talk has subsided, especially after he restructured some of his contract to help the team's cap
issues. Austin and Dez Bryant form a better-than-average 1-2 punch at receiver and Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley appear to be ready to emerge as solid third and fourth receivers. Don't forget about Danny Coale, a fifth-round pick who had injuries all season. And Anthony Armstrong might be the fastest player on the team so if he can learn the offense all offseason, he could be a factor. At tight end, Jason Witten is coming off a record-setting year and shows no signs of slowing down. James Hanna will likely move into the backup role but don't rule out John Phillips re-signing.
- *Nick Eatman *
Who's Out There:
Once again, wide receiver and tight ends are two areas filled with enticing free agent names. And once again, the team's cap situation may hold the Cowboys back from dipping into that deep market. The biggest names in free agency at wide receiver are Wes Welker, Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings. The Dolphins have reportedly been interested in acquiring Wallace as their deep threat, while it's possible both Welker and Jennings end up back on their respective teams, although Jennings might look for more money. Any team signing Jennings will have to hope he can stay healthier than he did in 2012, playing in only eight regular season games. Free agent Brandon Gibson is coming off his best season in St. Louis, compiling 691 yards on 51 catches with five touchdowns. Wide receiver and return threat Josh Cribbs could be an affordable buy for a team as a dual-threat candidate, while slot threat and former Cowboys receiver Danny Amendola is also on the market. Speaking of former Cowboys, the tight end free agent pool includes both Martellus Bennett and Anthony Fasano. Versatile threats James Casey and Delanie Walker are also free agents, and teams can immediately get help in the passing game by signing Brandon Myers, Jared Cook or Dustin Keller. Myers had a breakout campaign in 2012 with Oakland, finishing with 79 catches, 806 yards and the first four receiving scores of his career. Veteran Tony Gonzalez may be the most notable player in the group of tight end free agents after another highly productive season, but it's unlikely he ends up anywhere outside Atlanta if he decides he's not ready to hang up the cleats.
- *Rowan Kavner *
What They'll Do:
New Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley will be asked to work with a group that has some talented young players in Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley. It also has a veteran in Miles Austin who hasn't lived up to the expectations that we all believed he could achieved. During the season, he was clearly replaced as the No. 1 receiver with the emergence of Bryant. If there was a bright spot to his season, he did manage to get through the entire year not missing multiple games. But with Austin, it's not about surviving the season because so much more is expected of him and when he doesn't deliver it makes you wonder why. The club also has unproven second year players in Danny Coale and Tim Benford. What is
interesting is that Coale is like Matt Johnson in that he was never completely healthy but when he was, the reports that I had heard from the front office and coaches is that he was making progress on the scout team, as was Benford. As you look at the development of Bryant, it started very early in the OTAs and mini camps. You can actually say the same about Harris, who to be honest was an afterthought going into the season but came back from the offseason as a different player. What will be interesting about this group is if Dooley has the same thoughts and visions about these players as Garrett and this offensive staff does. Could he think more or less about these players is something these coaches will have to work through. If this squad is to add a receiver to the mix, I believe it will be through the draft and not free agency. There will be younger, cheaper and more talented players in this group as I work through the names, and I believe the club will feel the same way.
At tight end, the Cowboys will add a player to go along with Jason Witten and James Hanna. John Phillips is an unrestricted free agent and will most likely move on. There is no doubt in my mind that they are going to look for a blocker. The current player that would interest me the most would be Delanie Walker of the 49ers because of the number of things he could do in the offense but on special teams as well. He would be an outstanding fit for the Cowboys and a great compliment to the other guys. In the draft, Travis Kelce of Cincinnati would be the guy [embedded_ad]
on tape that played the best in the role I just described, in comparison to Tyler Eifert, Zach Ertz and Gavin Escobar. The problem with Kelce is the off the field questions that could keep him off the board. Over the years, this scouting staff has really done a nice job of grabbing the right guy to bring in, so this spring I expect them to do the same, whether it's from the pros or college.
- *Bryan Broaddus *