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Mailbag: Predicting The Free Agent Futures At Linebacker & Defensive Tackle

A KAPLANNEW YORK , NY
So with all the recent writings about the future of the linebackers, besides Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens, who from the current crop of top linebackers returns next year? Justin Durant/Rolando McClain? Kyle Wilber? Is McClain going to be "affordable" after having such an impact on the field?

Bryan: Just a feeling but I like the chances of Justin Durant being back with this team, even over Bruce Carter. As much as I want to believe that Rolando McClain will return, that one is going to come down to how much money is the organization willing to spend with other players in a similar situation? Sean Lee will be returning from injury and as a fan you have to hope that his return is as successful as what we have seen in the past with Barry Church and Tyrone Crawford. Anthony Hitchens gives you hope for the future and any group of teammates he has should be successful.

David:I agree with Bryan that I think Justin Durant will be back. The coaches love him, and he was playing great before the injury -- and I think that injury will make him more affordable. I don't think Bruce Carter's future lies here, as he'll probably be able to find a more lucrative deal somewhere else. Wilber is under contract until after next season, so no worries there. I'm guessing McClain re-signs, because I doubt he'll be that expensive, and I think he likes his situation here.

TRAVIS SMITHEL PASO, TX
With Henry Melton going on season-ending IR, that adds another injury to his list. What are the chances the Cowboys pick up his option? If they don't pick it up, will they have room to pursue one of the premier defensive linemen in free agency like a Jason Pierre-Paul, Aldon Smith or Ndamukong Suh?

Bryan: I believe that Melton's career is done with the Cowboys. Both he and the team bet he could regain that former magic and at times it was there, but there are just too many other players that need to be signed and with the development of Crawford, Davon Coleman and Ken Bishop plus Terrell McClain, there is no reason to bring him back at that price. As far as the free agents on the horizon, this team needs to continue to draft well and get their talent that way instead of trying to rent players.   

David:The only way Melton is back next season is if he re-works his deal to play here for cheaper -- he's not going to get that lucrative option we've talked so much about. As for free agents, keep in mind how many players this team needs to re-sign. DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant will be free agents, as will Doug Free. Like we mentioned above, McClain, Durant and Carter are all up for renewal. This team is in much better shape financially than it has been -- especially with the salary cap expected to increase in the spring. But I'm guessing the signings they make in 2015 won't be of the "big splash" variety.

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