Dallas Cowboys: 2014 Cowboys free agents

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jarius Wynn

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
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Jarius Wynn
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $715,000

Summary: He was signed on Oct. 15 and played Oct. 20 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He started one game – at defensive tackle – and finished the season with 12 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and six pressures. He started the year with the San Diego Chargers, making three tackles and a sack in five games.

Why keep him: Depth, depth and more depth. Wynn wasn’t bad as a rotation player and he offered some position flexibility by being able to move inside if needed. While that is not his strong suit, he can get a defense through a game. His six pressures tied for sixth on the defense.

Why let him go: Not to be cavalier about a position that held the Cowboys back in 2013, but they can do better. Perhaps Ben Bass, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, can provide the depth they want from their defensive linemen and have more pass-rush ability. Plus, the Cowboys figure to address the position in the draft as well.

Best guess: He will be allowed to look around and if the Cowboys find themselves in a pinch later in free agency, they can give him a call.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Brian Waters

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
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Brian Waters
Position: Guard
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $1.5 million

Waters
Summary: He was signed Sept. 4 after he and the Cowboys flirted for most of training camp. By Week 3 he was the starting right guard, but he suffered a torn triceps against the Detroit Lions and was done for the season.

Why keep him: While he was not the All-Pro performer he was in his days with the Kansas City Chiefs, Waters brought stability to the middle of the line. His strength helped with the attitude of the running game, and he remained a solid pass protector. He showed he can still play and be more than a functional piece of an offensive line.

Why let him go: He turned 37 on Feb. 18, and at the end of the season had yet to decide whether to have triceps surgery or not. He cannot play again if he doesn’t have the surgery. Mackenzy Bernadeau raised his level of play after Waters went down for the season, and the Cowboys could look to select a top guard early in the draft. Waters has made it known he is not a fan of the offseason or training camp, so he would not have time to get accustomed to the players around him. He has played only five games in the past two seasons, having sat out the 2012 season.

Best guess: The Cowboys keep Waters’ name in their Rolodex, and if they need to make a call in the summer to gauge his interest, they will make it. He has kept himself in good shape and has shown he does not need a ton of time to get ready. But this option exists only if he has the surgery.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jon Kitna

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
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Jon Kitna
Position: Quarterback
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $940,000

Summary: He joined the Cowboys for the final week of the season after Tony Romo suffered a back injury. He was Kyle Orton’s backup in the season finale mostly because he knew the Cowboys’ offense and was in decent enough shape.

Why keep him: He is a great guy to have in the locker room. Younger players tend to flock to him because of his wisdom and personality.

Why let him go: He is 41 years old. He’s been out of football for most of the last two seasons. It was a neat story for a week, but there’s not a future here.

Best guess: Kitna will return to his life as a high school math teacher and football coach in Tacoma, Wash. If the Cowboys need him again at the end of the 2014 season for a week, he will offer up his services again.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Anthony Spencer

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
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Anthony Spencer
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $10.627 millionAnthony Spencer
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $10.627 million

Spencer
Summary: Spencer played in just one game because of a knee injury that eventually required microfracture surgery. He had two tackles and two quarterback pressures in 34 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs and did not play after that. The Cowboys gave him the franchise tag for the second straight year and felt he would be a stabilizing piece in their switch to the 4-3 after putting up 11 sacks in 2012. It never happened because of a knee injury that troubled him in the spring and required a scope during training camp before the microfracture surgery.

Why keep him: The Cowboys still need all the defensive line help they can get and Spencer's price will be low because of the knee surgery. The Cowboys committed nearly $20 million to Spencer in 2012-13 and would like to get something out of him, provided he is healthy. He is a stout run defender and showed in 2012 he can get to the passer.

Why let him go: While the Cowboys have had players return from microfracture surgeries in the past, it is a delicate operation that requires patience. Spencer turned 30 last month and now will have a knee that will be managed. George Selvie had seven sacks as Spencer's replacement in 2013.

Best guess: If Spencer's price is right, the Cowboys can keep him, but when will he get on the field? The rehabilitation process is a long one and it's not clear whether he will be ready to go when training camp begins in July. Spencer might also find the Cowboys as his best option, since they know exactly where he is medically and will give him the right amount of rest. If he can prove his health, then finding a 3-4 team (New Orleans?) to take a chance on him could be an option as well.

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2014 Cowboys free agents: Danny McCray

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Danny McCray
Position: Safety
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $630,000

McCray
Summary: After finishing second on the team in tackles in 2012 with 87, McCray had one defensive stop in 2013. Since he arrived as an undrafted free agent in 2010, he had been the Cowboys’ best special teams player, but he had only eight special teams’ tackles in 2013.

Why keep him: He can still contribute on special teams and can play on defense, although it should be noted the coaches never put him in the mix at safety despite the struggles of Jeff Heath and J.J. Wilcox.

Why let him go: The Cowboys did not want to pay him the tender offer of roughly $1.2 million last year as a restricted free agent, so they gave him a $100,000 signing bonus and the $630,000 base salary. If they thought he was too expensive last year, then he can’t figure in their plans in 2014.

Best guess: McCray has a big fan in former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who is now with the Chicago Bears, and heading there could be an option as he can continue to be a top special teamer. But his time with the Cowboys appears to be over.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Ernie Sims

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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Sims
Ernie Sims
Position: Linebacker
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $840,000

Summary: Sims played in 12 games, starting six because of Bruce Carter’s ineffectiveness and injuries to Justin Durant and Sean Lee, but he had a hard time staying healthy as well, dealing with a groin injury. He had 42 tackles and forced a fumble.

Why keep him: He played for new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Detroit and knows the scheme to the point where he can play all three linebacker spots. He will be a physical presence on a defense that needs as much physicality as possible.

Why let him go: He was out of position too often last year, looking for the big hits. The development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman gives the Cowboys younger and less expensive options at the backup spots. They can also play on all of the major special teams' units, which Sims did not do.

Best guess: It’s time to move on.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Edgar Jones

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
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Edgar Jones
Position: Defensive end
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $715,000

Jones
Jones
Summary: Acquired in a trade from Kansas City the week before the season began, Jones played in only seven games with five tackles, three pressures and a pass deflection on defense. He also had five special teams' tackles. He missed nine games because of a groin injury that eventually required sports hernia surgery.

Why keep him: Maybe you've heard the Cowboys need defensive linemen? Jones has the added benefit of being able to cover kicks and punts, which is not a trait you usually find in defensive ends. Before the injury he was doing well in a limited role, so maybe he could be a rotation player in 2014.

Why let him go: He has 1.5 sacks in seven seasons. You would like more production than that, even in a backup. He turns 30 in December and getting younger and cheaper is always a better option for a team in cap trouble.

Best guess: Jones will be able to test the market, but he is looking at another year of making the minimum wherever he signs.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Jason Hatcher

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
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Jason Hatcher
Position: Defensive tackle
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $2 million

Hatcher
Hatcher
Summary: Hatcher picked the right time to have the best year of his career. He was added to the Pro Bowl after putting up 11 sacks. In his first seven seasons he had 16 sacks and never more than 4.5 in a season. The move to the 4-3, as well as Jay Ratliff’s health issues, was of great benefit to Hatcher.

Why keep him: Hatcher was their best defensive lineman last year and it makes good sense to keep your better players, even those on a unit that finished last in the NFL in 2013. The three-technique is a major force in the 4-3 scheme and the Cowboys do not have an in-house replacement.

Why let him go: Cost. In a perfect world the Cowboys would have been able to put the franchise tag on Hatcher, which would pay him more than $9 million, but they are not in a perfect world because of their salary-cap situation. Hatcher also turns 32 in July, and it’s rarely good business to commit big-time money to an older player.

Best guess: Hatcher has put himself in position to cash in and he has said he will take the best deal. The best deal almost assuredly will come from another team. If the Cowboys want to remain in the mix to keep Hatcher, they have to hope the defensive line market is as soft this year as it was last year where somebody like Cliff Avril received two years for $15 million from the Seattle Seahawks. Hatcher could see the benefit of remaining with the Cowboys, even on a shorter deal, when all factors are considered.

Cowboys free agents: Ryan Cook

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Ryan Cook
Position: Center/guard
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $1.1 million

Summary: Cook spent the season on injured reserve with a back injury after practicing just a handful of times in training camp. In 2012, he started 11 games at center after he was acquired in a trade from Miami the week before the season opener.

Why keep him: He has position flexibility, which is always a good thing for backup offensive lineman. He has experience, which is another benefit. With Phil Costa set to count $1.75 million against the cap in 2014, Cook would be a cheaper option.

Why let him go: Preferably teams would rather go younger and cheaper on a backup offensive lineman. Costa is younger, if not cheaper. He is also coming off a back surgery. Cook is something of a progress stopper. He might be solid for a handful of games, but he will not be a long-term answer on the offensive line.

Best guess: Cook will have a chance to see what the market will bear for him. The Cowboys could bring him back at a one-year deal worth the veteran minimum salary benefit. Costa might not have the same position flexibility but he is a better fit in this zone blocking scheme than Cook if something were to happen to Travis Frederick.

Cowboys free agents: Phillip Tanner

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
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Phillip Tanner
Position: Running back
Free-agent type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $555,000

Summary: Tanner had nine carries for 12 yards and a touchdown in 2013 on offense and made nine tackles on special teams in 16 games.

Why keep him: He is everything Jason Garrett wants in a teammate. He is tough, dependable and trustworthy. He will do whatever it takes for the team to win. He is an excellent practice player. He knows the offense and can contribute on every special teams’ unit. He can be a useful short-yardage back.

Why let him go: There comes a time where the cost of a player outweighs his usefulness on the roster because of price. Tanner was set to make $1.389 million as a restricted free agent, but a source said the Cowboys will not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent With DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, who is entering his second year, there just isn’t enough snaps for him on offense.

Best guess: Danny McCray was a restricted free agent last year and the Cowboys chose not to tender him an offer, giving him a $100,000 signing bonus and $630,000 base salary instead. And he was their best special teamer. The Cowboys could choose to do the same with Tanner this year, minus the signing bonus. In this scenario his base salary would be a non-guaranteed $645,000.

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