2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Cowboys won't be as busy as 2012 in free agency

By SCHUYLER DIXON - AP Sports Writer
    2013-03-10 19:33

IRVING, Texas (AP) - One thing is certain with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency: They won't be nearly as busy as they were a year ago.

That's not to say there aren't immediate needs for a team with consecutive 8-8 finishes, three straight seasons without a playoff trip and a .500 record going back 16 years. The Cowboys need more defensive linemen for a switch to the 4-3, and they are thin at safety after releasing Gerald Sensabaugh to clear room under the salary cap.

The biggest question for the Cowboys entering free agency, which starts Tuesday, was whether to keep one of their own. They've already answered it by putting the franchise tag on Anthony Spencer for the second straight year, making it unlikely he will sign elsewhere.

Last year, Dallas signed seven free agents, highlighted by four starters in cornerback Brandon Carr, fullback Lawrence Vickers, offensive linemen Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings. Linebacker Dan Connor ended up starting most of the season after Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were lost to season-ending injuries.

This year, the Cowboys have been restructuring contracts to get under the salary cap and still have work to do to make room for Spencer and anyone else they want to add. Dallas is operating with a $5 million cap penalty for the second straight year over the NFL's interpretation of a contract for receiver Miles Austin that was signed during the year without a cap.

``We've had years when we've played free agency and some years when we don't sign anyone because of the cap situation,'' executive vice president Stephen Jones said in an interview for the team's website. ``But obviously last year we went hard. If you have a salary cap, you can't do that every year.''

If Spencer doesn't agree to a long-term deal, he will make $10.6 million, or 120 percent of the $8.8 million he earned under the franchise tag last season. His salary is based in part on the average of the top five salaries at linebacker even though he's likely to switch to defensive end with the Cowboys abandoning the 3-4 after eight years.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones hinted at the NFL scouting combine that the team couldn't afford to keep Spencer. But he was a defensive end in the 4-3 at Purdue, and Dallas needs all the options it can get as it makes the transition.

Additionally, coach Jason Garrett couldn't say enough good things during the season about Spencer, who led the Cowboys with the first double-digit sack total of his career (11).

``He's just a good football player,'' coach Jason Garrett said at the combine. ``He showed us that this year and the last four or five years that he can do a lot of different things.''

Garrett said the Cowboys were ``absolutely'' planning to keep defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who was arrested for drunken driving just a few weeks after teammate Josh Brent was jailed on intoxication manslaughter charges in an accident that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Brent would have been a factor in the switch to the 4-3, but his career is on hold while his case is in the courts.

Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears and Sean Lissemore are among the veterans likely to land on the interior of the defensive front. But the Cowboys don't have any natural pass-rushing ends beyond DeMarcus Ware and Spencer.

``When you go from a 3-4 style of defense, you talk about what you want from the three defensive linemen and what you want from the linebackers and you go through it,'' Garrett said. ``You just have to kind of rework those and say, `OK, now we're talking about a defensive end in a 4-3 defense and you go through those parameters. We're in the process of doing that right now, and that will certainly help our evaluation of these players (in the draft) and the free agents that might be available to us.''

If the Cowboys add other free agents, the cap room is likely to come from an extension for Tony Romo, who is entering the final year of his contract. Jerry Jones and his son have been clear that they want a new deal for Romo, who turns 33 next month.

Any additions by Dallas are likely to be inexpensive, although that could be a fit at safety, with several veterans getting released for cap relief. The list got longer in recent days with Jacksonville dumping Dawan Landry and Arizona getting rid of Adrian Wilson after 12 seasons with the Cardinals.

---

Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

---

Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Mike PounceyJul 23 12:33p

Miami Dolphins C Mike Pouncey (hip) could miss the first eight weeks of the season because of the hip surgery he had this offseason, according to a source. He [ More ]

Evan RodriguezJul 23 12:23p

Buffalo Bills FB Evan Rodriguez (cramps) and TE Chris Gragg (cramps) were hospitalized because of complications from cramps and were getting hydrated, according to head coach Doug Marrone. Rodriguez [ More ]

Dustin HopkinsJul 23 12:20p

Buffalo Bills PK Dustin Hopkins will have to try to make the roster as a kickoff specialist, according to head coach Doug Marrone.

Vernon DavisJul 23 12:13p

San Francisco 49ers TE Vernon Davis has reported to camp Wednesday, July 23, according to an Instagram post from 49ers S C.J. Spillman.

Jason BabinJul 23 12:03p

New York Jets signed DE Jason Babin (Jaguars) to a two-year contract, with the second year being a team option. He's expected to serve as a situational pass rusher.

Reggie WayneJul 23 11:13a

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (knee) said he has been medically cleared to practice. He's expected to be limited, though, especially in the near future.

Kraig UrbikJul 23 10:53a

Buffalo Bills OG Chris Hairston continued to receive first-team repetitions at right guard in the red zone drills Wednesday, July 23. OG Kraig Urbik struggled with first-team the previous day.

Jamaal CharlesJul 23 09:53a

Updating previous reports, Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles will not report to training camp Wednesday, July 23, barring a major contract breakthrough.

Vick BallardJul 23 09:33a

Indianapolis Colts RB Vick Ballard (knee) reported to camp and has passed his physical.

Rob GronkowskiJul 23 08:53a

New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski (knee) has been cleared for contact and will not be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list, according to head coach Bill Belichick.

Evan RodriguezJul 23 08:43a

Buffalo Bills TE Chris Gragg (cramps), FB Evan Rodriguez (cramps) and CB Brandon E. Smith (leg) were out of practice Wednesday, July 23. OT Seantrel Henderson (hip) returned to action.

Rashad JenningsJul 23 08:23a

New York Giants RBs Rashad Jennings, David Wilson and Andre Williams could be used in a three-man rotation this season to keep Jennings fresh.

Caleb McSurdyJul 23 02:53a

The St. Louis Rams waived four players Tuesday, July 22, as they cut loose OL Abasi Salimu, WR Diontae Spencer, LB Caleb McSurdy, and LB Tavarius Wilson.

Carl NicksJul 23 02:43a

Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Bobby Rainey, G Carl Nicks and DE Da'Quan Bowers may be fighting for roster spots once training camp begins due to other competition for their [ More ]

Chris CulliverJul 23 01:13a

San Francisco 49ers CB Chris Culliver (knee) has been cleared to take part in practice when training camp opens this week. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament to [ More ]

Ben TateJul 23 01:13a

Cleveland Browns RBs Ben Tate and Terrance West will compete for the starting tailback job during training camp and the preseason, and it's a battle head coach Mike Pettine [ More ]

Joel BitonioJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns OG Joel Bitonio (ankle) lined up with the first-team offense during organized team activities (OTAs), and he held the spot until he suffered a sprained ankle June [ More ]

Paul McQuistanJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns OLs Garrett Gilkey, Paul McQuistan and Jason Pinkston are fighting for position in the pecking order at right guard, and one of them might even push OG [ More ]

Craig RobertsonJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns LBs Christian Kirksey and Craig Robertson will compete for an inside linebacker job during training camp, according to head coach Mike Pettine.

Joe HadenJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns CBs Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine will compete for the starting cornerback job opposite CB Joe Haden in training camp. 'We weren't going to hand Justin that [ More ]

Gary BarnidgeJul 23 01:03a

Cleveland Browns TEs Gary Barnidge and Jim Dray will battle for the No. 2 tight end spot during training camp and the preseason.

Eli ManningJul 23 12:23a

New York Giants QB Eli Manning (ankle) has shown no ill effects during camp from ankle surgery that sidelined him for earlier offseason activities.

Tom CoughlinJul 22 11:53p

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was not happy that several players were forced to leave practice with dehydration issues Tuesday, July 22. 'It pisses me off,' Coughlin [ More ]

Brandon LloydJul 22 11:23p

San Francisco 49ers WR Stevie Johnson is the frontrunner for the No. 3 WR job, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, but he added that neither Johnson nor WR [ More ]

Darren SprolesJul 22 11:13p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles' ability to win one-on-one matchups in space is what head coach Chip Kelly plans to exploit this season. Kelly said opposing defenses played a [ More ]

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 11:03p

Buffalo Bills QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Tori Gurley had miscommunications on three occasions Tuesday, July 22, resulting in two incomplete passes and an interception. Joe Buscaglia of WGR [ More ]

Thaddeus LewisJul 22 10:53p

Buffalo Bills QB Thaddeus Lewis and QB Jeff Tuel are in an open competition for the backup quarterback job, head coach Doug Marrone said Tuesday, July 22.

Brian MoormanJul 22 10:43p

Buffalo Bills P Brian Moorman was more effective than P Jake Dombrowski on punts in terms of both average hang time and average distance Tuesday, July 22.

Titus YoungJul 22 09:53p

Updating a previous story, free-agent WR Titus Young (Lions) was charged with felony battery with serious bodily injury from an alleged July 8 incident inside a Los Angeles-area hospital. [ More ]

Ryan MathewsJul 22 09:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews' rookie contract will expire after the 2014 season, which means this could be his final year with the organization, in the opinion of [ More ]

Mario WilliamsJul 22 09:43p

Buffalo Bills DE Mario Williams, DT Marcell Dareus and DT Kyle D. Williams were all rotated out of the lineup at times during team drills Tuesday, July 22. LB [ More ]

Nigel BradhamJul 22 09:23p

Buffalo Bills LB Nigel Bradham was one of eight players to record sacks during team drills Tuesday, July 22. The team's pass rush has been consistent since camp began, [ More ]

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group