Dallas Cowboys: Free agency

The Jacksonville Jaguars released wide receiver Laurent Robinson on Tuesday after one season.

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Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the latest free-agency moves going on around the NFL.

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Robinson signed a five-year, $32.5 million deal with the Jags last season but suffered four concussions and finished with just 24 catches for 252 yards and zero touchdowns after missing nine games. He did, however, pass his physical last month.

Robinson surprised with Dallas in 2011 and was fantastic as the No. 3 receiver. He set career highs in catches (54), yards (858) and touchdowns (11), which helped him get a big money deal with Jacksonville. The Cowboys valued Robinson but weren't willing to put the investment in him that the Jags were, because they had their eyes on other big ticket players, such as Brandon Carr, who was signed to a five-year, $50.1 million deal.

But should the Cowboys bring Robinson back now?

There are three factors in play for the Cowboys:

1. Health. Robinson suffered four concussions and will have to undergo major tests with the Cowboys in order be cleared by their doctors. How concerned were the Jags about Robinson's health? They cut him and will have at least $9 million of dead money to absorb on their salary cap.

2. What to pay? Robinson was already guaranteed nearly $14 million from the Jags. Do you sign him to the veteran minimum? The Cowboys will have to make roster moves just to be able to sign a free agent. Is it worth cutting a player to make room for Robinson?

3. Dwayne Harris. He is poised to become the Cowboys' No. 3 wide receiver in 2013. Why slow down his development for Robinson, who is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro?

What do you think?
The first day of free agency is over and things will probably slow down a little on Day 2. With that, we review what we heard, saw and talked about Tuesday night and preview what could happen down the line.

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Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley discuss the latest free-agency moves going on around the NFL.

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The loss of John Phillips: The Cowboys lost their backup tight end to the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday. Phillips was part of that dreadful 2009 class that produced very little for the Cowboys. Only free agent linebacker Victor Butler remains, and he's drawn interest from the New York Jets. Losing Phillips isn't a big deal because James Hanna has more upside as a solid pass-catching tight end. The Cowboys are in need of a blocking tight end, and this is where drafting someone in the late rounds could be important.

Chase Blackburn vs. Kevin Burnett: The Cowboys released backup inside linebacker Dan Connor because he refused to take a pay cut. The Cowboys are in the market for another one and like middle linebacker Blackburn, who started 15 games last season for the New York Giants at middle linebacker. He finished second on the Giants with 97 tackles and had eight tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits. He also had three sacks and six pass breakups. If signed, Blackburn, an eight-year pro, would be a nice backup for Sean Lee at the inside linebacker spot. But what about Burnett? The former Cowboys linebacker was released by the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and might be a nice pickup to start at that vacant outside linebacker position. Burnett, who started 16 games for the Dolphins last season at one of the outside linebacker positions in the Dolphins' 3-4 scheme, would like a return to Dallas. He was credited with 109 total tackles (second on the team), picked up 2 1/2 sacks, five tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. Who would you rather have, Blackburn or Burnett?

Martellus Bennett goes to Chicago: The tight end signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Chicago Bears. He's come a long way since his days in Dallas, when he fumed at times for not getting enough passes thrown his way. Bennett had an excellent season for the Giants and, while they wanted him to return, the Bears had a need at the position. One of the biggest problems with Bennett in Dallas was his lack of maturity and the Cowboys' inability to know how to use him. Bennett's career is summed up this way in Dallas: He caught four touchdown passes his rookie season (2008) and none the next three seasons. He caught five TD passes during his one year with the Giants. He's a good blocking tight end, something the Cowboys need, and he's athletic enough to make plays on the field. We'll see how Bennett does with Jay Cutler.

Jenkins and Jones drawing interest: Free agent cornerback Mike Jenkins and running back Felix Jones didn't have any visits the first day of free agency. But with the biggest day of this period over with, both are starting to draw interest. The former first-round picks, especially Jones, need to prove to NFL teams that they can stay healthy for an entire season and are willing to accept backup roles. It will be interesting to see if Jenkins, a former Pro Bowler, gets a two- or three-year contract to become a starter or maybe gets his role changed to possibly get snaps at safety, where he played some in 2012.

The good news: The Cowboys couldn't participate Tuesday because they have just $175,000 in cap space. Anthony Spencer signed his franchise tender, and the team can continue having talks with their defensive end about a long-term deal. Also, if the team can finalize a new long-term deal with Tony Romo, it'll lower his salary cap number from $16.8 million and open the door for the Cowboys to sign some second-tier free agents.

Free-agency series: Tight ends

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
1:00
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The finale of a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Tight ends


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Who’s on the roster: Colin Cochart, James Hanna, Andre Smith and Jason Witten

Analysis: Witten, after a slow start in 2012, proved once again that he's an elite tight end. It's still a mystery as to why he doesn't get enough touches in the red zone. But Witten continues to be a prime target and safety net for quarterback Tony Romo. There were times last season where Witten seemed unstoppable. Hanna is a solid pass-catching tight end who moves up the depth chart in 2013. Hanna has impressed the coaches with his route running and catching ability. It won't happen for a few years, but Hanna appears to be the future at this position.

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John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the offseason happenings around the NFL and what they mean for the Dallas Cowboys.

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NFL free agents of interest: John Phillips, Anthony Fasano, Dustin Keller and Travis Beckum.

Need meter: 6. The Cowboys miss Martellus Bennett, who was a solid blocking tight end. And while Bennett is a free agent this spring, he won't be looking to return to Dallas. The team should get a veteran who can block well and isn't worried about getting touches on a regular basis. Fasano possibly? He was a Cowboys draft pick who was traded to Miami. If the Cowboys decide to address the position in the draft, that's fine too, but finding someone who can block well on a consistent basis is very important.

Cowboys could be quiet in free agency

March, 11, 2013
3/11/13
11:56
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The Cowboys will enter free agency Tuesday afternoon as spectators in the early going.

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Todd Archer joins Galloway & Company to discuss the Cowboys' latest moves, if the team should extend Tony Romo's contract and much more.

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That's ok because, after all, sometimes fans forget what happened the previous year.

Last year many fans wanted the Cowboys to jettison Terence Newman from the team. After that occurred, the Cowboys spent $50.1 million -- the most for a cornerback in franchise history -- on Brandon Carr.

Cowboys fans wanted upgrades to the offensive line, and Jerry Jones delivered by spending more than $30 million on guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Lawrence Vickers was expected to be upgrade at fullback last season and the Cowboys signed him to a two-year deal worth $2.4 million.

Jon Kitna bothered the Cowboys' faithful because of his age and declining skill set; forget about the fact he was a respected member in the locker room. Enter Kyle Orton, who lost his starting job to Tim Tebow the previous season in Denver, to take over as Tony Romo's backup. Orton signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract.

The Cowboys made their free-agency play last spring, upgrading the cornerback, guard, fullback and backup quarterback positions.

All it got them was an 8-8 season and a seat at home watching the playoffs.

You can't expect the Cowboys to become big players every year in free agency. The team was nearly $20 million over the salary cap when the season ended and you can't expect the franchise to cut everybody because it comes with a price. Dead money hits you the next year or two depending on when a player is released from his contract.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Cowboys will get under the cap. They've agreed to restructure the contracts of Livings, Orlando Scandrick and Jay Ratliff. There's a chance Dan Connor and Marcus Spears will be sent packing.

In Connor's case, a pay cut was offered a week ago, but nothing has transpired along that front. Sending Spears home saves just $600,000. But finding the right fit for Spears (defensive end or defensive tackle) could be the main reason he's released.

At this stage of the offseason the two most important financial plays for the Cowboys are defensive end Anthony Spencer and Romo. Romo will likely get a long-term deal at some point, mainly to reduce his team-high $16.8 million salary cap.

Spencer, who received the franchise tag, wants to remain with the Cowboys long term. Whether he will get a big-money deal from the Cowboys is uncertain.

As of today, the Cowboys are nearly $6.8 million over the salary cap. Depending on how much gets done by Tuesday afternoon, the Cowboys might not have much room to play with in free agency. So while other teams are holding press conferences and flying players to their facilities, things will be quiet at Valley Ranch and Cowboys Stadium.

It's not the end of the world. Just the reality of the situation.

Free-agency series: Wide receivers

March, 10, 2013
3/10/13
11:30
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Ninth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Wide receivers


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Who will lead the Cowboys in receptions next season?

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Who’s on the roster: Anthony Armstrong, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, Tim Benford, Dez Bryant, Danny Coale, Jared Green, Dwayne Harris and Carlton Mitchell.

Analysis: Bryant emerged last season as one of the top weapons on offense. It will be interesting to see how his relationship with new receivers coach Derek Dooley develops. Bryant had solid relationships with previous receivers coaches Ray Sherman and Jimmy Robinson. Austin continues to frustrate the Cowboys with his nagging leg injuries, but he's a force when healthy. Austin coming up with zero catches in both Washington Redskins games last season is puzzling and can't happen again against an NFC East rival. Harris gained more playing time late in the season when Kevin Ogletree dealt with injuries and inconsistent play. Beasley has a solid chance to become a slot receiver who makes plays.

NFL free agents of interest: Ogletree, Lee Evans and Kassim Osgood.

Need meter: 3. The Cowboys don't need a veteran receiver to stunt the growth of their younger players. If the team wants a veteran, maybe Ogletree returns and perhaps Osgood can be picked up and contribute on special teams. But with talented players like Bryant, Austin and Harris improving, there shouldn't be a big need at this position. But it wouldn't be a bad idea to draft a receiver as a safety net in case Harris doesn't develop as hoped or Austin's injury issues crop up again.

Source: Cowboys $6.8 million over cap

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
1:06
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Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL teams have until Tuesday to get under the $123 million salary cap for the 2013 season.

According to a source, the Dallas Cowboys are close to $6.8 million over the cap.

Several things could happen within the next few days to get the team under the cap:
The Cowboys have the necessary paperwork to file with the league regarding several players' restructured contracts. The Cowboys could get under the cap without a new deal for Romo or reworking some deals such as Ratliff's or Scandrick's.

Team officials don't seem too concerned about it at this stage of the offseason because they have a plan in place to make sure they get under the salary cap.

Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins draw interest

March, 9, 2013
3/09/13
10:55
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Running back Felix Jones and cornerback Mike Jenkins are drawing interest from NFL teams as the free-agency period nears.

The Dallas Cowboys have no interest in re-signing Jenkins, a one-time Pro Bowler. Jenkins lost his starting job last season when the Cowboys signed Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million deal and moved up in the draft to select Morris Claiborne.

Jenkins didn't like how the Cowboys treated him in the offseason as he recovered from major shoulder surgery, and the Cowboys weren't happy he didn't show up for voluntary offseason workouts.

But Jenkins is getting interest from other NFL teams as a potential starter.

Jones is also getting inquiries from other teams, mainly as a backup, because injuries have limited his ability to hold the starter role. The Cowboys have minimal interest, and it's doubtful the team will bring him back.

Jones was drafted as a backup and showed flashes of becoming an impact player, but his health has betrayed him. During the 2012 season, team executive vice president Stephen Jones said Jones played through some things that most players wouldn't. We know Jones played with two sore knees but didn't need offseason surgery.

Free-agency series: Linebackers

March, 8, 2013
3/08/13
1:00
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Eighth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Linebackers


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Who will be the Cowboys' best linebacker next season?

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Who’s on the roster: Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Caleb McSurdy, Dan Connor, Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright, Orie Lemon

Analysis: In Lee and Carter, the Cowboys appear set at the Mike (middle) and Will (weakside) linebacker spots. However, both players are coming off injuries and must prove they can stay healthy. The Sam (strong side) is in question, but Albright looks to be the best in-house candidate. Wilber didn’t play much as a rookie but has athletic ability. Connor could be a cap casualty soon and Lemon might not be tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent. McSurdy is coming off an Achilles injury but could be an OK fit as a backup. Just based on numbers, the Cowboys will need to add some players here.

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Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL free agents of interest: Ernie Sims, Chase Blackburn, Keith Rivers, Will Witherspoon, Geno Hayes

Need meter: 7. When the Cowboys ran the 3-4, they generally needed bigger linebackers to withstand more direct play with the offensive linemen. With the 4-3 that changes to a degree, with speed being a top priority. But, as with every position in free agency, don’t look for the Cowboys to spend a lot of money. Not with Lee entering the final year of his deal and Carter up the year after him. Sims played well after joining the Cowboys following Lee’s toe injury. Sims is a better fit for a 4-3 and would be a solid backup. The Cowboys had mild interest in Blackburn last year, and he did some nice things for the Giants.

Free-agency series: Running backs

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
11:30
PM ET
This is seventh in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Running backs


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What running back would you want as DeMarco Murray's backup?

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Who’s on the roster: DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Lance Dunbar, Lawrence Vickers

Analysis: If Murray can stay healthy, the Cowboys have a legitimate lead horse. But that’s a huge if after injuries marred his first two NFL seasons. The Cowboys must acquire a backup capable of carrying the load if Murray goes down. Team executive vice president Stephen Jones is on record with the opinion that Tanner and Dunbar, a couple of undrafted backs with local roots, are No. 3 RB types. The Cowboys could also make a change at fullback if they can find a cheaper and/or more effective alternative than Vickers, who was a disappointment after signing as a free agent last offseason.

PODCAST
Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Tony Romo's potential contract extension, the Cowboys' plans for Anthony Spencer and how Joe Flacco's final month of the season impacted the Cowboys' offseason.

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NFL free agents of interest: Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Rashard Mendenhall, Ahmad Bradshaw, Cedric Benson, Michael Turner, Felix Jones.

Need meter: 6. It’d be ironic if Jackson or Mendenhall came to the Cowboys in free agency, considering the controversy when the Cowboys passed on them to pick other backs in the draft. That, however, is extremely unlikely. The return of Jones, the Cowboys’ first-round bust from 2008, as a stopgap backup is more likely if he can’t find an attractive offer in the free-agency market. But there are plenty of recent examples of mid- to late-round backs playing major roles as rookies. It makes sense for the Cowboys to go that route to address their need.

Free-agency series: Offensive tackles

March, 7, 2013
3/07/13
1:00
PM ET
This is sixth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Offensive tackles


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What should the Cowboys do with Doug Free?

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Who’s on the roster: Tyron Smith, Doug Free, Jermey Parnell, Darrion Weems, Aderious Simmons

Analysis: This is a problem spot because Free has been so poor since signing a four-year, $32 million deal to play left tackle. He was moved to the right side last season, becoming the NFL’s highest-paid right tackle, and was so bad that he split time with Parnell late in the season. There have been internal discussions about moving Free to guard, but it’s more likely that he’ll be designated as a post-June 1 cut. Parnell performed relatively well in spot duty, but the Cowboys would be wise to at least acquire a tackle to compete with him if Free is released or moved. Smith, the Cowboys' 2011 first-round pick, should be a fixture at left tackle for years.

NFL free agents of interest: Jake Long, Andre Smith, Sebastian Vollmer, Phil Loadholt, Jermon Bushrod, Sam Baker

Need meter: 8. Offensive tackles don’t come cheap in free agency, and the Cowboys certainly aren’t in position to make high-dollar bids for the top names on the market. Perhaps the Cowboys could try to sign a less expensive tackle, much like they did at guard last offseason with Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau, but this is a spot Dallas will likely address in the draft.

Free-agency series: Defensive ends

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
11:30
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Fifth in a a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position-by-position:

Defensive ends


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How will the move to defensive end affect DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer?

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Who’s on the roster: DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer (franchise tag), Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass.

Analysis: Ware and Spencer will be moving from outside linebacker to defensive end in Monte Kiffin’s new scheme, but they are not completely unfamiliar spots since they had their hands on the ground as pass rushers in the nickel defenses. The difference will be the play-to-play grind of lining up against tackles, which could wear them down. Crawford showed some promise as a rookie in the 3-4 and plays with an energy that should help him get to the quarterback. The Cowboys have some flexibility with the players on their roster. Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore, Crawford and Bass could play tackle and end if needed.

NFL free agents of interest: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Osi Umenyiora, Dwight Freeney, Israel Idonije, Amobi Okoye.

Need meter: 7. In the 3-4 scheme, a defense can never have enough linebackers. In the 4-3 scheme, you can never have enough pass rushers. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli worked with Idonije and Okoye in Chicago and might want to bring them to the Cowboys. Neither will be break-the-bank free agents, which makes them a better fit, and they have the ability to get to the passer. Idonije had 7.5 sacks last year for the Bears and also has some position flexibility. Umenyiora and Freeney are situational pass rushers at this point in their careers. If they understand that, then they could be a fit. However, the price tag could be too steep.

Free-agency series: Defensive tackles

March, 6, 2013
3/06/13
1:00
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Fourth in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position-by-position:

Defensive tackles


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What is the Cowboys' biggest problem along the defensive line?

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Who’s on the roster: Ben Bass, Josh Brent, Rob Callaway, Jason Hatcher, Ike Igbinosun, Brian Price, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears and Monte Taylor.

Analysis: Ratliff and Hatcher are the starters and there is a hope Ratliff will emerge as an impact player with the move from nose tackle to defensive tackle. There is some concern about Spears' role with the team. Is he a tackle in this scheme? What about Tyrone Crawford, who was drafted as a 3-4 defensive end. Does he move to tackle? Bass showed some signs in training camp he can play a little bit and will be given a chance to prove himself again. Callaway was called up late in the season and, like Bass, will get an opportunity to receive significant playing time.

NFL free agents of interest: Brian Schaefering, Chris Canty, Amobi Okoye.

Need meter: 4. Schaefering will return because he's a exclusive rights free agent. Canty is a former Cowboy who has played in a 4-3 scheme. Canty moved from end to tackle with the New York Giants. Okoye, 25, is a young talent who might be worth looking at. He could have an immediate impact. Of course, the draft will dictate what the Cowboys do in free agency. One thing new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said he wants is speed, speed and more speed. His scheme wants solid pass rushers up front who push the pocket. If you can't do that, don't expect to play for him.

Free-agency series: Centers and guards

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
11:30
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This is third in a 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position by position:

Centers/Guards


SportsNation

What should the Cowboys do to improve the interior of their offensive line?

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Who’s on the roster: G-David Arkin, G-Mackenzy Bernadeau, G-Ray Dominguez, G-Kevin Kowalski, G-Ronald Leary, G-Nate Livings, C-Ryan Cook, C-Phil Costa.

Analysis: The Cowboys signed Costa to a two-year deal and, at least for right now, he's the projected starter for 2013. Kowalski and Bernadeau can also play center, which gives the Cowboys position flexibility. The guard position has veterans Bernadeau and Livings, but Leary impressed the coaches as the season progressed, and he'll push to make the active roster this season. It's probably time to see if Arkin and Kowalski can prove to the coaches and scouts that they can play in this league. Both won't replace Livings or Bernadeau, however, and the Cowboys do need quality backups in the interior.

NFL free agents of interest: G-Derrick Dockery, G-Brandon Moore, G-Donald Thomas, G-Kevin Boothe, C-Jeff Faine.

Need meter: 4. The Cowboys might get a guard in the draft, which could push Arkin or Kowalski off the roster. What's left of the roster in the interior needs to improve badly. The Cowboys will most likely pass on Dockery, who filled in when needed last year. Thomas is an interesting pickup and should challenge for a starting job if given an opportunity. Faine had some injury problems last season, but he is a veteran who could provide security if there are problems with Costa and Cook.

Free-agency series: Defensive backs

March, 5, 2013
3/05/13
1:00
PM ET
We continue our 10-part series breaking down the Cowboys' free-agency needs, position-by-position:

Defensive backs


SportsNation

How should the Cowboys replace Gerald Sensabaugh?

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Who's on the roster: CB-Brandon Carr, S-Barry Church, CB-Morris Claiborne, S-Matt Johnson, CB-Sterling Moore, S-Micah Pellerin, CB-Orlando Scandrick, CB-Brandon Underwood.

Analysis: The cornerback spot is secure with Carr, Claiborne and Scandrick manning the top spots. The safety position got thin with the release of Gerald Sensabaugh. However, the Cowboys return Church, but he's coming off a torn Achilles injury. Johnson missed the entire 2012 season with a hamstring injury and there are high hopes for his ability to play in 2013.

Cowboys free agents: RFA: S-Danny McCray; UFA: CB-Michael Coe, S-Eric Frampton, CB-Mike Jenkins and S-Charlie Peprah.

NFL free agents of interest: CB-Stanford Routt, S-Ronde Barber, S-William Moore and S-O.J. Atogwe.

PODCAST
ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys cutting Gerald Sensabaugh in a salary cap move.

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Need meter: 3. The Cowboys don't have much money to play with in free agency. And with the money and draft picks invested at corner in the last two seasons, they won't go after a highly-regarded corner such as Quentin Jammer. However, safety could be a different story. Barber has played in the Tampa 2 system before and might be an interesting pickup. There was interest in Atogwe a few years ago; might the Cowboys offer him a two-year deal to play strong safety? The Cowboys will bring McCray back as a backup safety/special teams ace. Peprah and Frampton, both in-season pickups in 2012, are two valued players whom the Cowboys should discuss keeping. If that happens, it's doubtful the Cowboys go outside to sign a safety.

Cowboys free agents: Brian Schaefering

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
12:00
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[+] EnlargeSchaefering
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsBrian Schaefering didn't have a huge impact, but a team can never have enough defensive tackles.

Brian Schaefering


Position: Defensive tackle

Type: Restricted

Summary: A late-season addition, Schaefering picked up the techniques well and immersed himself into the Cowboys locker room pretty quickly. He had a minimal impact on the team.

Why keep him: You can never have enough defensive tackles, especially when you're moving to a 4-3 scheme that needs defenders to push the pocket. The uncertain futures of Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent due to their arrests means the Cowboys are thin at this position, so Schaefering gets to stay.

Why let him go: The Cowboys didn't seen enough of him and there's nothing wrong with looking at other players, specifically draft picks with more upside.

Best guess: He stays with the team. It can't hurt to have him around getting to know the scheme and maybe becoming a reliable backup.

Follow the rest of the series here.

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