- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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We are nearly a month into the free agency period and it seems the Dallas Cowboys are losing the battle in the NFC East.
The division games have ended in heartbreak for the Cowboys the last two seasons with losses in the regular season finale eliminating them from playoff contention.
The need. Fix the defensive line: The Cowboys had no choice but to solve this problem given they lost DeMarcus Ware 24-hours after releasing him and their refusal to re-sign Jason Hatcher in free agency. Jerry Jones said the team got better along the defensive line, if not younger with the signing of Henry Melton to replace Hatcher at defensive tackle and Jeremy Mincey to possibly take over for Ware at end. Terrell McClain is projected to add depth to the unit. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has strong relationships with his linemen and he plans to use a rotation with a better group of players this season than last. Jones also said the team will draft the best player available thanks to what the team did in free agency. But you have to think if the team had made a play for say Robert Ayers, who signed a deal with the New York Giants, this group would be even better.
Safety, Safety, Safety: It seems the Cowboys are always looking to fix the safety position. Last season the team started three different players at the position and none of those players were able to sustain a hold onto the position due to various reasons. The Cowboys have bypassed adding a veteran player such as Jairus Byrd, who left Buffalo for a six-year $56 million deal with New Orleans. The Cowboys weren’t going to pay big money for a safety again after getting burned by large contracts to Ken Hamlin and to Roy Williams in previous seasons. Danieal Manning, Michael Huff and Major Wright are on the market and could be signed to a short-term deal. But the Cowboys are hoping the stiff competition between J.J. Wilcox, Matt Johnson and Jeff Heath will develop a consistent starter in 2014.
It’s all about the money: When free agency started the Cowboys had less than $2 million to spend and after cutting Ware, that money increased to a little over $10 million. The team had to be smart in what it did in free agency and was against kicking out big money to a player. Hence the incentive-type deal Melton signed. Outside of the Melton decision, signing Weeden might be the smartest financial move the team made. His cap numbers for the next two seasons are $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015. Far lower than what the team has given current No. 2 quarterback Kyle Orton the last two seasons. The Cowboys had to be smart in their decision making due to the salary cap and the moves they made backed that up.