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Thursday, September 1, 2011
Which Cowboys are next to get paid?

By Calvin Watkins

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- First it was Orlando Scandrick and now the Cowboys are in talks to rework the contract of nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

But there are some other players who could make a trek to Jerry Jones office seeking a new deal. We look at five players:

1. Jason Witten.He's got two years left on his contract. He's scheduled to make $3.3 million this season and $3.6 million next year in base salaries. Witten will also get $1.5 million in bonuses the next two seasons. The interesting thing about Witten is when he signed a seven-year $29.5 million extension in 2006, it was the highest contract for a tight end. This summer, San Diego's Antonio Gates inked a five-year extension worth $36.1 million with $20.4 million guaranteed. Gates is now the highest-paid tight end in the game. John Phillips and Martellus Bennett are two backup tight ends, but neither has done enough to force the Cowboys to think they have a future replacement. Witten most likely gets a new deal.

2. Bradie James.The inside linebacker enters the final year of his deal. He will get $3.5 million. Unlike Keith Brooking, who's replacement could be Sean Lee, Bruce Carter is not ready to participate. He'll miss the first six weeks of the season because he's on NFI as he's still recovering from knee surgery. It's uncertain if Carter will move into a starting role next season, but if he does play at all in 2011, how he performs could dictate what the team does with James. James is a dependable player who most likely will get a short-term deal.

3. Abram Elam.Safeties have burned the Cowboys in the past with long-term, expensive deals. Remember the six-year $39 million deal Ken Hamlin signed a few years ago? Elam might end that trend. He is the quarterback and the calming influence with Rob Ryan's defense and if he plays well, the Cowboys could take care of him at some point during the season. Gerald Sensabaugh has played well in the preseason, but the Cowboys, for some reason, don't seem focused on taking care of him long-term. Barry Church has been impressive this summer and he might get matched up with Elam for 2012.

4. Mat McBriar.The punter? Well, of course. McBriar is in the last year of his contract, where he's expected to get $1.7 million for 2011. He's been a strong player for the Cowboys and special teams is an important part of the game. Jason Garrett always talks about field position helping a defense and McBriar is a big part of that.

5. Felix Jones. He's got two years left on his deal and the running back from Arkansas is finally taking over the lead role with Marion Barber in Chicago. Jones will make $1.02 million this season and $1.17 million next year. If Jones performs well in 2011, it gives the Cowboys a comfort level at the running back spot. Jones has shown good speed and movement during the preseason and he's also taking better care of his body to help with his durability. Locking up Jones long-term seems like a good move.

Others: Anthony Spencer enters the last year of his deal and Mike Jenkins has two years left on his contract. It should be noted that Jenkins' agent took note of the five-year deal Scandrick received.