Not Exactly Worry-Free

Igor Olshansky is the only starting defensive-end under contract.

Olshansky, who has started on the right side for two years with the Cowboys. He's got two years left on a four-year deal but certainly did not play to the same level last season as he did in 2009. 

Sean Lissemore, and really, who knows about last year's seventh-round pick. He was injured in training camp and has played only enough to make two career tackles. 

That's all there is to speak of, unless of course you like the idea of moving two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff to end, and sure doesn't seem like new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan thinks that's a good idea. 

So as you can see, if the Cowboys were simply content on keeping their own, operating in 2011 under last year's uncapped rules would be beneficial. Bowen and Hatcher would still be restricted free agents. But if the CBA gets knocked out, and the unrestricted free agency requirements revert back to the previous CBA rules, Spears, Bowen and Hatcher would be unrestricted. Hoo boy! And it's almost as if the Cowboys need a new CBA agreed to as late as possible, limiting the amount of time to implement new rules and forcing the league to simply say, "OK, 2011 is uncapped, too."  

Otherwise you'd need a starting quality 3-4 defensive end, and depending on Olshansky's evaluation, maybe two if you can sign any of your unrestricted defensive ends. Maybe they can. Maybe they have a little brother-in-law deal in the works with Bowen and/or Hatcher. Who really knows. 

If not, there really isn't much in free agency that would get you all excited, meaning moving Ratliff to defensive end might become a necessity more than a luxury if you can't re-sign two of those three guys. 

But as I've said previously, if you just need to worry, worry most about defensive end. Because if the Cowboys don't do a better job of stopping the run, if they don't do an appreciably better job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, it will matter not who is playing safety or who is playing cornerback. Or who the defensive coordinator is. We'll be talking bride's toast more times than not, even if it's no more than David Garrard in the pocket. 

And that's why I advocated selecting a defensive end in the first round, though not knowing the Cowboys had Tyron Smith on their board ranked much higher than the best 3-4 defensive ends (J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan). After the first round, there really wasn't a quality 3-4 DE worth taking, other than to fill space, which as COO Stephen Jones said would have precluded signing a defensive end in free agency ... if possible. 

So there, go ahead and worry, and I'll join you in a couple of days. 

My worry-free week is nearly up.  

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