Dallas Cowboys: Free agency outlook

Free agent outlook: Abram Elam

July, 1, 2011
The final installment of our free agent series looks at strong safety Abram Elam, who was with the Cowboys in 2006. Elam finished the 2010 season with Cleveland and could be someone the Cowboys look at when the labor issues settle.


[+] EnlargeAbram Elam
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireIf Gerald Sensabaugh doesn't stick around, the Cowboys could target Abram Elam.

Why him?He's played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and the front office and scouts know how he's improved his game from when he first entered the league. Elam was credited with 63 solo tackles, according to the Cleveland coaches' stats, and had 10 pass breakups, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Elam is good against the run and can cover tight ends if needed. The biggest name among the free agents who play strong safety is Gerald Sensabaugh of the Cowboys. Sensabaugh is looking for a big contract, something the Cowboys might not be willing to pay. The team likes Sensabaugh but was slightly frustrated with his lack of coverage skills in 2010. There also seemed to be some communication issues in the secondary, and there was the brief skirmish with Terence Newman last year. The two quickly got over the incident. If the Cowboys pass on Sensabaugh, Elam appears to be one of their guys.

Is there anybody else?Quite a few names. The Cowboys could try to keep Sensabaugh. If not, the Eagles' Quintin Mikell is an interesting option, as is the Jets' Brodney Pool. From a financial standpoint, Baltimore's Dawan Landry and Sensabaugh are the most expensive selections on the market, followed by Mickell, Elam and Pool. The Ravens could re-sign Landry quickly once the market opens, leaving the others to entertain other teams.

Key stat:Sensabaugh was tied for the Cowboys team lead with five interceptions last season.

Free agent outlook: Cullen Jenkins

June, 30, 2011
At the halfway point of our free agent series, we look at defensive end Cullen Jenkins. The Cowboys have some issues along the defensive line with three of their ends becoming free agents, and it's doubtful the team will re-sign Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen and Jason Hatcher with a potential new financial system in place. With that, we now take a look at Jenkins.

[+] EnlargeCullen Jenkins
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCullen Jenkins had seven sacks for the Packers last season and would fit in the Cowboys' 3-4 defense.

Why sign him?Jenkins has shown the ability to play in both the 4-3 and 3-4 scheme. In the Cowboys' 3-4, it wouldn't appear to be a problem to move him into the right or left defensive end spot. Jenkins has battled some injuries in the past, but last season he had seven sacks and was credited with 20 solo tackles according to the Packers coaches' review of the film. Signing Jenkins could also mean Bowen (if he stays) remains on the nickel in the defensive front, where he continues to excel. The Cowboys have young players Clifton Geathers and Sean Lissemore, who will enter their second seasons, as potential backups. Lissemore could use the mentorship of a seven-year veteran like Jenkins to help in his development.

Is there anybody else?Yeah, but if the Cowboys stay away from getting an end on the open market who can contribute in a 3-4, then making sure they sign Bowen, Spears and or Hatcher is a must. It would seem the Cowboys know what they have in Spears, who has started for them since 2005. But Hatcher has underachieved, and Bowen could command a nice little payday on the open market. Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers is an interesting possibility. He had five tackles for loss and 26 quarterback hits last season while backing up Isaac Sopoaga.

Key stat: Bowen had four tackles for loss and 12 quarterback pressures last season.

Free agent outlook: Nick Cole

June, 29, 2011
The series you must read continues today with a look at Philadelphia Eagles guard Nick Cole. The Cowboys' starting left guard, Kyle Koiser, is a free agent, and while he did have a good season, he's 32, and the team might go with a younger player: Enter Mr. Cole.

Here's a look.

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Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesNick Cole can play both guard positions and even center and could be an attractive option for the Cowboys.

Why sign him? Cole can play both guard positions and even center. He's younger -- turns 27 in July -- and while the team does have fourth-round pick David Arkin, the Cowboys haven't done a very good job developing offensive linemen in the past. So who knows if Arkin can play? Cole can not only replace Kosier, who turns 33 in November, but there's a chance he can take over for Leonard Davis at right guard. The Cowboys have been frustrated with Davis' play in the past -- he was even benched during a game last year -- but did return and finished 2010 strong. In a pinch, Cole can fill in for center Andre Gurode. Cole started one game at center in 2010. The interesting thing about Kosier is the amount of years he would want on a new contract. Do you give Kosier a three-year deal where he'll be 35 at the end of it? Or go for a younger product in Cole?

Is there anybody else?The Cowboys could stick with Kosier; he might sign a three-year deal. If Arkin develops, the team can always cut Kosier. Cole dealt with knee problems last season and that could be a red flag for the Cowboys, as well. If the Cowboys can't sign Cole or Kosier, Atlanta Falcons guard Justin Blalock is available on the market. Blalock probably wants a bigger contract than Cole, but he's started every game the last three seasons. He's improved every year he's been in the league and he's a good charatcer guy.

Key Stat:Kosier has missed 16 games the last three seasons due to injury.

Free agent outlook: Michael Huff

June, 28, 2011
Warren Sapp shares his thoughts on Raiders free safety Michael Huff and new Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

Listen Listen
Our free agent series continue with a look at Michael Huff. He's a popular name in the Dallas area because he's from Irving and went to the University of Texas. And like yesterday's subject -- Nnamdi Asomugha -- Huff has played for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.


[+] EnlargeMichael Huff
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireMichael Huff made great strides blitzing from the free safety position, finishing with four sacks and seven tackles for loss.
Why sign him? He's coming off one of his best seasons, finishing third on the team with 84 tackles, four sacks, seven tackles for loss, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and seven pass breakups. Huff made great strides blitzing from the free safety position and improved his cover skills. Signing Huff could be an expensive venture, because one would think the Raiders would like to retain him. If the new salary cap rules take effect, NFL teams have to spend at least 90 percent of the $120 million cap -- and the Raiders are far below that.

Huff seems like an upgrade over Alan Ball, who at times looked lost while playing free safety last season, and he'll eventually move back to cornerback. The Cowboys have had problems signing safeties to big money deals in the past. Roy Williams and Ken Hamlin performed below the Cowboys' standards after inking huge contracts. It would seem Huff is in his prime and could be different.

Is there anybody else?Eric Weddle from the San Diego Chargers is a possible target. The Chargers coaching staff credited Weddle with 93 tackles, which led the entire secondary and was second on the team to former Cowboys linebacker Kevin Burnett (124). Weddle played well against the run this past season and is a good tackler as evident by his seven tackles for loss.

Key Stat: Ball started the first eight weeks of the season without a pass breakup.

Free agent outlook: Nnamdi Asomugha

June, 27, 2011
In about three weeks, maybe sooner, the NFL will get its act together, end the lockout and league business -- including a free agency frenzy -- will start immediately.

The Cowboys have several holes, and tried to fix some through the NFL Draft. But free agency will be another another avenue to regroup from last season's 6-10 disappointment.

Over the next five days, we'll look at five potential free agents the Cowboys should try and sign.


Kyle Terada/US PresswireFree agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha had no interceptions and just six pass breakups last year, but that's because opposing teams mostly refused to throw his way while covering their best receiver.
Why sign him? He's one of the best cover corners in the game. Quarterbacks don't throw his way, as evident of his zero interceptions and just six pass breakups last year. He's a defender who takes out the opponents' No. 1 wide receiver and can work all over the field. If the Cowboys sign him, it's going to cost them as he'll likely command a salary of about $7 million to $8 million a year. To make this happen, the Cowboys will have to let high-priced veteran Terence Newman go.

Newman, who turns 33 in September, is coming off a season which wasn't his best on the field. It makes you wonder if he's starting to slow down. Adding Asomugha would put pressure on fellow cornerback Mike Jenkins and slot corner Orlando Scandrick to produce because offenses will avoid Asomugha. Of course, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan knows all about Asomugha, having working with him for a few years. So if the Cowboys do pursue Asomugha, Ryan has all the knowledge necessary for the front office.

Is there anybody else? Of course. A cheaper version is Ike Taylor, who gave up just one touchdown last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The Cowboys could stay away from this position entirely and just go with their current group. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said previous Pro Bowl appearances from Newman and Jenkins gives him hope they can return to their Pro Bowl ways.

Key stat: Newman and Jenkins combined for 19 pass breakups in 2010.