Who stays/goes: Unrestricted free agents

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
10:39
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys have 13 players who will be unrestricted free agents in 2012, and there is a possibility none of them will return.

CB Alan Ball: He started off well in the No. 4 cornerback role, but his play tailed off late in the season when he had to play more. The Cowboys should target corners in the draft and free agency, which means a return is unlikely.

TE Martellus Bennett: He wants a chance to play more and that won’t happen here with Jason Witten ahead of him here. He was saddled with second-round pick expectations but he never lived up to the billing. We’ll see if he can produce elsewhere.

LB Keith Brooking: He knows his career is winding down but he wants to keep playing. With little depth behind Sean Lee and the Cowboys hoping Bruce Carter can be a starter in 2012, is it worth it to bring him back for another year?

OG Derrick Dockery: He did not play poorly in his two starts and given the lack of depth on the offensive line he could be back on a short-term deal.

S Abram Elam: When the Cowboys gave Gerald Sensabaugh $8 million in December that seemed to seal Elam’s fate as a one-year player here. He is a favorite of Rob Ryan and I think the Cowboys should have signed him to the long-term deal, not Sensabaugh.

OG Montrae Holland: He’s in the same boat as Dockery, but he did a good enough job in the 10-game stint at right guard. He will be coming off biceps surgery and teams weren’t knocking on his door last year. Again, a short-term deal could work.

LB Bradie James: He remained the starter but his playing time was cut way back in Rob Ryan’s scheme. To his credit, he never complained and remained the consummate pro. He will get a job somewhere in 2012, but the Cowboys want to get younger and faster.

QB Jon Kitna: He was likely to retire after this season anyway before a back injury ended his season. Maybe the injury fuels him to want to come back for another year, but that is doubtful. I believe he’s ready for his post-playing career.

P Mat McBriar: This is the most interesting case because of the foot injury. Time and rest will help the nerves regenerate but there is no time table on when he will be back. A healthy McBriar is among the best punters in the game. Internal politics will be interesting on this one.

RB Sammy Morris: He did a terrific job as a late-season find, but he was around on Week 15 for a reason. It would be a lot of money to pay a No. 3 running back, especially with Phillip Tanner coming back next year.

WR Laurent Robinson: He was the biggest surprise of the year, finishing with 11 touchdown catches. He proved he could be a starter with Miles Austin out. If a team makes a big-time offer to him, he won’t be back. The Cowboys cannot sign him to a new deal until the new league year begins even if they wanted to sign him now.

LB Anthony Spencer: He was OK but when you’re a first-round pick that’s just not good enough. He did not deliver as a pass rusher and they need help opposite DeMarcus Ware. What helps his cause is the Cowboys don’t have an every-down replacement.

CB Frank Walker: He did a nice job early but tailed off late. Like Ball, the more he played the more he was exposed. Defensive teammates loved him but he was inactive for the final game, which should tell you his future here.

(Note: This was updated to remove Chris Greisen, who will be a restricted free agent, and Daniel Loper, who was cut before the regular-season finale.)

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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