NFL Free Agency Preview: Dallas Cowboys

Nick Castillo

As the NFL’s free agency period draws near, the Cowboys have a great opportunity to improve their playoff chances. Here are our suggestions:

1. Resign/Restructure Key Players Contracts

Dallas is dangerously close to running over the NFL’s salary cap. As a result, the Cowboys have already been working to alleviate their cap issues.  Quarterback Tony Romo, one of Dallas’ highest paid players, just had his contract restructured, creating $10 million in cap space for America’s Team.

In addition to restructuring Romo’s contract, Dallas is currently working with linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick’s to restructure their deals. These moves could create an additional 6.8 million in cap room.

2. Release Miles Austin

Since his breakout year in 2009, Miles Austin has failed to live up to expectations. Over the past three years, Austin has missed nine games due to a nagging hamstring injury. 2013 was Austin’s worst season. The receiver only played in 11 games and failed to catch a touchdown pass.

Considering his lack of production and the Cowboys cap issues, Dallas should release Miles Austin. By cutting Austin and designating him as a “post-June 1 cut,” the Cowboys can create $5.5 million in cap space. However, the cap room won’t show up until he is actually released, after June 1.

3. Find another running back

The Cowboys have an excellent running back in DeMarco Murray, but he can’t seem to stay healthy. During his first three seasons, Murray has missed nine games.

The Cowboys drafted Joseph Randle in the 2013 draft but he struggled in his rookie season. Lance Dunbar emerged as a solid back up, but he has also suffered from the injury bug.

Dallas may not be able to make a big splash in free agency but finding a durable running back would help them in the long run. Here are a few options:

Toby Gerhart – The one-time Heisman candidate is expected to be a free agent and proved to be a good backup for the Vikings.

Ben Tate – The former Texans rusher was a decent second string back. He thrives in the passing game, which could really help the Cowboys.

Donald Brown – Brown spent time as the Colt’s feature back; he is expected to be on the market and could be a good compliment to Murray.

4. Look for a back-up quarterback

Back-up quarterback Kyle Orton has been contemplating retirement. If Orton were to retire, Dallas would be without a reliable back up.

Even if Orton didn’t retire, an additional quarterback would give the Cowboys depth. Here are a few quarterbacks Dallas could go after:

Chad Henne – Henne had an up-and-down season with the Jaguars in 2013. In 15 games, Henne threw 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. While Henne’s touchdown to interception ratio is concerning, he would make for a solid back up.

Matt Flynn – Flynn is a solid quarterback but he showed over the past two years that he is not good enough to be a starting quarterback. Flynn could be a solid backup and grow under Romo.

Colt McCoy – McCoy is a fan favorite in Texas. He struggled as the starter in Cleveland but has been a solid backup. Expected to be a free agent, the Cowboys could pick him up for cheap.

Ultimately, any of these moves would be difficult to accomplish given the Cowboys salary cap issues, but if they can find the space, these are some good options.