Five Players the Dallas Cowboys should consider this offseason
By Matthew Postins
The first step for the Dallas Cowboys as they determine their roster for 2014 will be to see which free agents on their team they want to keep.
It won’t be easy. With the Cowboys reportedly about $23-24 million over the salary cap, depending on the source, the Cowboys not only need to clear that money, but also some maneuverability for rookie contracts and free agents.
Earlier this week we published the list of the Cowboys’ 2014 free agents. We’ve also filed stories about which of their own free agents the Cowboys should keep and take a pass on keeping. Below are five players that are scheduled to hit the free agent market in March that the Cowboys should keep an eye on. This list is put together under the expectation that the Cowboys will not be players for major free agents, thanks to their cap constraints.
OG Roberto Garza
Garza was Chicago’s center in 2013, but before that he played guard for the Bears and he did a solid job at that position throughout his nine-year NFL career, including playing in a Super Bowl. The Bears have made it clear they want to retain Garza, but after spending all of that money on quarterback Jay Cutler who knows exactly how much the Bears have under the cap or how that shifts their priorities. If Garza hits the open market the Cowboys should show some interest. Garza knows how to block the run, has experience protecting a semi-mobile quarterback in Cutler and has position flexibility. His last contract with the Bears paid him about $4 million, so a team could probably have him for a little more. The Cowboys would probably need a two-year deal to spread out the cap hit. But if the Cowboys want to improve the right side of the line, or provide some veteran competition for Mackenzy Bernadeau, Garza is a solid option.
DE Israel Idonije
This is a player the Cowboys were supposedly interested in last year. The thought was that Idonije’s knowledge of the Cover 2 and his ties to Cowboys defensive line coach Rod Marinelli might lure him to Dallas. Instead, Idonije signed with Detroit and he had one of the worst seasons of his career. He went from 7.5 sacks in 2012 to 0.5 sacks in 2013. So what happened? No one is certain. Idonije did not start a single game in 2013, and he’s used to being at least a part-time starter. Could a change of scenery help? Maybe. It’s also clear that Idonije enjoyed his best years under Marinelli, so perhaps being reunited with his former drill sergeant is a plus. There are concerns. Idonije’s season ended with a neck injury and he’s 33. But he played for the veteran minimum last year and probably would this year. Lord knows the Cowboys need every option it can find on defense.
DT Clinton McDonald
Great teams typically don’t get to keep all of their free agents from year to year, and the Seattle Seahawks will be no exception. McDonald, who plays inside on the Seahawks’ defensive line, will enter his fifth NFL season in 2014 looking for a long-term deal that pays him more than the $630,000 the Seahawks are paying him this year. Now how much more is McDonald likely to get? That’s hard to read right now. McDonald has had a solid year for the Seahawks, but he’s not one of those indispensable players. He’s not even a starter for the Seahawks, just a rotation player. What McDonald has is versatility. He can stop the run, push the pocket and do all of that at 285 pounds. He had 5.5 sacks in the regular season, a career high. The Cowboys need that and they need it at McDonald’s age, as he’s just 27. He’s entering the prime of his career and the Cowboys could take a chance on a player just reaching his prime who probably won’t command top dollar on the open market.
DT Peria Jerry
The former first-round pick out of Ole Miss is about to hit the open market. Jerry’s career path will not allow him to command a big contract. In his five-year career he notched 67 tackles and 5.5 sacks. In Atlanta, he’s considered a disappointment relative to his draft position. There are a few positives here, though. First, he’s the type of space-eating tackle you can use at the one-technique to help stop the run, as he’s not really a pass rusher. That allows him to compete and push Nick Hayden. Second, at age 29, he still has a few good years left before his physical skills begin to decline. Third, he has something to prove after five lackluster years in Atlanta. Four, he’s coming a posterior knee ligament sprain and some might be wary of the injury, even though it’s reasonable to assume he’ll fully recover. The Cowboys might see him as a one-year signing, have him come into camp and give him the opportunity to play for a bigger contract in 2015. If he’s motivated, his play will improve. If he’s not, then the Cowboys are only tied to him for one year. If the Cowboys were to make a play for him they’re banking that he’ll play with a chip on his shoulder, similar to the way George Selvie played this past season.
WR Andre Caldwell
He will be entering his seventh NFL season in 2014. Caldwell had enough talent to be a great fill-in guy as a fourth wide receiver and appears adaptable to most systems. You might ask why the Cowboys need another wide receiver? Well, it’s not a 100 percent lock that the Cowboys bring back Miles Austin, depending on the cap implications of releasing him. The Cowboys only had five wide receivers this season, and if they decide to migrate away from the two-tight end offense, they’ll need a sixth receiver. Caldwell’s talent makes him a good fit. He’s caught as many as 51 passes in a season and has registered at least 25 receptions three times. Plus, he can be had for cheap, likely the veteran minimum.