The Dallas Cowboys have many questions heading into free agency this offseason, but definitely at the top of this list is finding a way to re-sign two of the team's superstars in Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray.
Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards, 500 more yards than the second leading rusher Le'Veon Bell. Murray had by far his most productive season in 2014, but he just finished his 4th season and will turn 27 on February 12th. I know, 27 years of age sounds pretty young to most of us, but in the life of an NFL running back it is getting old. Murray takes very good care of his body and should be able to play another good 3 or 4 seasons.
The Cowboys must find a way to sign Murray, but they have to be careful and not sign him to a contract any longer than 3 or 4 years. The Cowboys must also find him some help because he will not be able to duplicate what he did this year. With the problems Joseph Randle is getting into his days in Dallas may be numbered.
Dez Bryant finished 8th in the NFL in receiving yards with 1,320, but he was only 300 yards behind the league leader Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bryant just turned 26 in November and just finished his 5th season with the Cowboys. Bryant should still have 4 good years left.
Bryant is another must sign for the Cowboys. He is definitely one of the best wide receivers in the NFL and his conduct and maturity level has gotten better. The Cowboys should try and sign him to 3 or 4 years.
The following is a list of players that the Cowboys must decide on what to do with. There are several big decisions the Cowboys must make to try and build on their success from last season. I have highlighted the most important ones and what I feel the Cowboys should do.
One way the Cowboys can clear some cap space to be able to sign Bryant and Murray is to cut corner back Brandon Carr. Carr's 2015 salary is the 3rd highest of all corner backs in the NFL, but his production is no where near that level. Carr is a pretty good corner, but not at the amount the Cowboys pay him. He is very highly overpaid.
Carr is scheduled to count $12.717 million against the cap in 2015 and pull down an $8 million base salary. If the Cowboys designate Carr a post June 1 cut, they would save $8 million against the cap in 2015, but he would count $2.7 million against the cap in 2016. I guess it is possible for Carr to renegotiate his contract like offensive tackle Doug Free did two years ago, but that is doubtful.
I felt the Cowboys pulled a rabbit out of a hat last year in signing Melton and he really paid off inThe Cowboys should decline the $9 million option on Melton.
helping the Cowboy defense improve from dead last in the NFL last season to a very respectable defense this season. Melton was 2nd on the team in sacks with 5.
The problem is that Melton's option for this season is $9 million. There is no way the Cowboys can afford that unfortunately, but they will save around $8.5 million by turning that down and making him a free agent.
The Cowboys truly struck gold in signing McClain last season. The Cowboys had just lost one of theirThe Cowboys need to re-sign McClain for their defense to keep improving.
team leaders and starting middle linebacker in Sean Lee for the season and it looked like the Cowboys' defense would be terrible again. To fill the void of Lee, the Cowboys traded a 2015 sixth-round pick for McClain and Baltimore's 2015 seventh-round pick.
McClain ended up being one of the team leaders on defense and helped the Cowboys defense turn things around. He brought a toughness to the Cowboys defense and ended the season as the team's 2nd leading tackler.
McClain is just 26 years old and is just now entering his peak seasons. He should still be a very good player for at least 5 more seasons if he can stay motivated and not try to retire again. In my opinion he should be one of the top targets this offseason. He is a play maker that they need to keep.
Offensive Tackle: Doug Free or Jeremy Parnell
Two years ago Free took a pay cut to stay with the Cowboys and there is no doubt he will have to do the same to stay with the team. Free is also 31 years old and is nearing the end of his career, but is still a very good run blocker, however he does struggle pass blocking at times and had some ankle injuries this season. With that being said Free is who the Cowboys should keep if they can get to a affordable salary.
Parnell is 3 years younger and is a good blocker, but he doesn't have the experience that Free has. There is not a big drop off from Free to Parnell in my opinion, so whichever one will work with the team would be the one I would sign and let the other one go.
The Cowboys have 3 linebackers that are free agents other than McClain: Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, and Cameron Lawrence.
Bruce Carter has the prototype size and speed needed to play in the NFL and had his best season. He made great strides in his pass coverage as well, which is what he had struggled with in the past. He can also play all 3 linebacker positions so to me the Cowboys should attempt to sign Carter at the top of this list.
Carter is also only 26 years old and should have 6 good years left in his career.
Durant plays with a great motor and is a great teammate from all accounts. He is also one of the coaches' favorites. Head coach Jason Garrett speaks very highly of him, but he is 29 years old, is undersized and gets injured too often.
Durant would be a great person to have on the team, but only at the lowest price possible.
Lawrence is a back up and should only be signed to the league minimum.
Cowboys Defensive Ends
George Selvie and Anthony Spencer are both unrestricted free agents.
Spencer is 31 years old and getting close to the end of his career. He did have 5 sacks this season, but the Cowboys should let him go unless he takes the minimum salary and the Cowboys can afford him.
Selvie is 27 years old and should have 4 or 5 more productive years. He has a good motor and is a good rotational guy, but he should not get paid starter money.
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