Cowboys depth along DL is lacking

March, 8, 2014
Mar 8
11:00
AM ET
NFL teams can begin speaking to free agents today, and the Cowboys have to deal with some issues along their defensive line.

As it stands today, the Cowboys released Everette Brown and Corvey Irvin from the unit, and are in discussions about a pay cut with starting defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

The group has four linemen who become free agents in Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Jarius Wynn and Martez Wilson.

Hatcher will test the market and could be too expensive to bring back either with a new contract or a franchise tag. Spencer is coming off microfracture surgery and team executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team is open to bringing him back. The team also has a strong interest in returning Wynn to the roster.

Overall, this group has depth issues.

Ware is the biggest question mark because the team doesn't want him to have a high salary-cap number ($16 million), but the team could be forced to just release him and create $7.4 million in cap space.

George Selvie (end) and Nick Hayden (tackle) are returning starters who excelled under line coach Rod Marinelli. However, if the Cowboys can find an upgrade in the draft to replace or create competition, it would replace Selvie and/or Hayden.

One of the keys to this group is pressure. As a whole, there wasn't enough pressure from the front four when Monte Kiffin was running the defense. Things could change under Marinelli and if the Cowboys secure better talent and get better performances in the secondary, to help with the pass rush.

Last year, Cowboys' officials said the line was a position of strength and it wasn't. The team lost Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Ben Bass to injuries.

Ware missed three games with a quad injury and the best lineman on the team was Hatcher, who led the team with a career-high 11 sacks.

The Cowboys did badly in the draft last year when it came to this position because it was hoping the current players on the roster would respond, and it bypassed upgrades at the position.

The Cowboys can't do that again this year.

Jones said the team isn't going to force selecting a lineman just because they need one; the Cowboys want to continue the trend of selecting the best man available.

Whatever the Cowboys elect to do, finding better talent in the draft is a must in 2014.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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