FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents heading into the spring and will have some tough decisions to make regarding several key players, some of which have been starters for multiple seasons.
But the salary-cap doesn't allow teams to keep everyone and that's why it should rather interesting to see how the Cowboys handle their own players here in the upcoming weeks.
The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com has weighed in, each picking one player they feel should be the highest priority on the Cowboys' wish list.
Bryan Broaddus: As much as I would like to see Ronald Leary and Terrance Williams return, my feeling is that the price of poker will likely be too much for the Cowboys to handle. La'el Collins will make sense for the potential loss of Leary, and either Andy Jones or the draft could take care of the Williams loss. The free agent that I would try to re-sign because of the position is Barry Church. I thought the defense played better with him in the lineup. They did a better job of getting off the field and they created more opportunities for turnovers. I also believe that he is a better pairing with Byron Jones and his style of play. His ability to play down and be physical around the line allows Jones to better play to his strengths. Barry Church just makes more sense for the defense.
Nick Eatman: There are a lot of guys the Cowboys should try and keep but I think they need to figure out a way to re-sign Ronald Leary. I don't really think it's going to happen and the writing is on the wall, especially after they took a shot with Cooper. But to me, Leary pushed this offensive line to the next level. The same guys were here last year with La'el Collins but the running game got dominant when Leary took over. I'm not saying he's the most valuable, but he is one of the biggest/strongest linemen on the team and having that size in the middle is important. Last year, the Cowboys were one of the worst short-yardage teams in the league and now they're one of the best. Sure, that's a lot of money invested into the line but if it's clearly the strength of the team, then I would make sure it sticks together.
Rob Phillips: Wilcox and Heath stepped in and did a nice job during the four November games Barry Church missed with a fractured arm. When Church returned, the Cowboys allowed an average of 16.5 points and only seven pass plays of at least 20 yards in their final four regular-season games until the finale when the starters sat or played limited snaps. Despite playing only 12 games, Church trailed only Sean Lee with 109 team-credited tackles and his two interceptions led the defense. He's a team captain for a reason: he's productive and he's had a leadership role since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2010. There are other solid players the Cowboys should attempt to retain, but I'd put Church at the top of the list.
David Helman:Even for all their other personnel problems, the Cowboys' cornerback issue stands out to me because of its urgency. In today's NFL, you need three, preferably four cornerbacks who can cover. As it stands heading into 2017, the Cowboys have two – Orlando Scandrick and Anthony Brown. For that reason alone, I'd like to see Brandon Carr back in Dallas on an affordable contract. He's an experienced starter and a good locker room presence. He's also reliable, given that he's never missed a game in a nine-year career. I assume people are going to dog him, because he was in coverage for Jared Cook's game-deciding catch in the playoffs. But the fact is that he gives you a steady starter at a position of dire need going forward. If the Cowboys do in fact re-sign him, they can turn toward the draft for his long-term replacement. But I feel better about the defense in 2017 if Carr is back in the fold.
A look at the 53 man roster for the 2016 season.