Cole Beasley's contract numbers are in

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
2:15
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys officially announced the Cole Beasley signing Wednesday after he agreed to the four-year deal on Tuesday.

The total numbers we have known: four years, $13.6 million with $7 million effectively guaranteed and a $4 million signing bonus.

The other numbers are in, too.

Beasley
Beasley will make $1 million in base salary this season, which means he will carry a $2 million salary-cap figure in 2015. The Cowboys had the option of putting the low tender on him as a restricted free agent worth roughly $1.5 million, which could have allowed teams to sign him to an offer sheet because no compensation would have been due the Cowboys, or the second-round tender worth roughly $2.4 million.

With this deal, the Cowboys saved about $400,000 in salary-cap space in 2015.

Beasley will earn $2.356 million in 2016, with the contract becoming fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the league year. For now, $2 million is guaranteed for injury only.

He would earn base salaries of $3 million in 2017 and $3.25 million in 2018.

He also has $500,000 in escalators that can increase his base salaries in the final three years.

The $3.4 million average for Beasley is the same the Cleveland Browns gave Andrew Hawkins last year to sign an offer sheet as a restricted free agent away from the Cincinnati Bengals. Biggest difference? Hawkins makes a little more than $10 million in the first two years of the deal. Beasley could make up to $7.8 million in the first two years if he hits on all of the escalators.

Cowboys once again make trek to Duke

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
12:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – At the NFL scouting combine, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he would take some offseason trips like he has done in the past, but he just didn’t want to be specific about where and when.

Garrett was a guest speaker at spring training for the New York Yankees and this week he is once again at Duke but instead of just bringing Tony Romo with him, tight end Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray made the trip to Durham, North Carolina, as well.

Garrett
Garrett
Garrett likes to hear what successful people think regardless of industry, but Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski is somebody he holds in the highest esteem.

“That’s a big part of what we do, encouraging our coaches to really be thoughtful about taking a trip,” Garrett said two weeks ago in Indianapolis. “We call it, ‘one-day learning excursions.’ Go somewhere in football, outside of football, in town, out of town and try to spend some time with somebody who has been successful in what they do and hopefully we can learn from and come back and grow as an individual.”

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is supposed to make a trip to Notre Dame at some point this offseason and there will be some other “excursions” as well.

It’s interesting that Murray is on the trip, considering he is about to become a free agent. He joined Romo and Garrett at an SMU basketball game recently as well.

Murray has said he would like to remain with the Cowboys, but there hasn’t been much discussion about a contract before the market opens next Tuesday.
IRVING, Texas – Thankfully my kids weren’t near me when I saw Adam Schefter’s tweet that the Philadelphia Eagles will trade LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

It was a much more adult version of "Whooaaaa."

The immediate reaction was: What is Chip Kelly thinking?

McCoy
The second reaction was: The Dallas Cowboys don’t have to see McCoy twice a year anymore.

The third reaction was: But they will see him up in Buffalo this season.

The fourth reaction was: This is good for the Cowboys.

The fifth reaction was: What does this mean for DeMarco Murray?

It’s easy to say another running back has been devalued. In 2012, McCoy signed a five-year deal with nearly $21 million guaranteed. He’s scheduled to make $9.75 million this year. He ran for 2,926 yards under Kelly. He wasn’t as good last season as he was in 2013, but the Eagles weren’t as good as a team either.

So if this can happen to McCoy, what does that mean for Murray? Does it help the Cowboys in their quest to keep Murray but at their price? Maybe it does show that the market will not be as bountiful as the NFL’s rushing leader hopes it will be.

Reactions 6-50 went back to my first reaction.

Kelly has been given guru status by some prominent media members because he can be glib and he doesn’t follow the group-think that envelopes a lot of the NFL.

This trade is definitely out of the box. Kelly loves him some Oregon players, so I can see his affinity for Alonso, but the linebacker is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It’s his second torn ACL in the last four years.

He had a terrific rookie season and made plays at all different levels. Evidently Rex Ryan didn’t think he would be a good fit for his defense. Kelly thinks otherwise, obviously, but Alonso is not as good a linebacker as McCoy is a running back.

So the 51st reaction was: Maybe Kelly knows something we all don’t, either about McCoy, Alonso, or what the Eagles are about to do this offseason.

What the Eagles have done lately is create a ton of cap space by agreeing to trade McCoy and cut Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, Cary Williams and James Casey. They can go after anybody they want in free agency, plus keep Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Graham, and anybody else they desire.

Jimmy Johnson’s big advantage early on in his tenure with the Cowboys was his knowledge of college football players. He recruited the best players at Miami and was in position to know the very best of the best as they entered the NFL.

But Kelly took Marcus Smith in the first round last year, who made no impact. Some wonder if he will ever make an impact.

So maybe Kelly is about to make a ton of free-agent moves as his way of overtaking the Cowboys in the NFC East.

But I still don’t understand what Kelly is thinking. Another AFC personnel chief I spoke with Tuesday night wasn’t so sure either.

Perhaps that’s Kelly’s genius?

Free-agency guide: Cowboys

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
11:00
AM ET

Ahead of the start of free agency, Insider is providing buyer's guides for all 32 teams: biggest need positions from Football Outsiders, top targets from KC Joyner and Matt Williamson and predictions on how everything will play out from our NFL Nation team reporters.

Included below are links to every team's article. This is the entry for the Dallas Cowboys.

Biggest needs

Cornerback: Orlando Scandrick played fine as the nickel corner covering slot receivers, but there are problems on the outside. Brandon Carr has a cap number of more than $12 million and might be cut. On the other side, both Sterling Moore and Morris Claiborne struggled. Dallas was in the bottom five in completion percentage and yards allowed per throw to the defense's right, while intercepting only two passes.

video

Jim Basquil and Mark Brunell talk about a couple of NFL free agents who may not be worth their big price tag.
With free agency starting March 10, it is time to break down the Dallas Cowboys' needs and wants. Teams can start talking with players on Saturday.

Defensive tackle

Melton
What they have: Terrell McClain ($1 million base salary), Tyrone Crawford ($675,000), Josh Brent ($745,000), Amobi Okoye ($745,000), Chris Whaley ($510,000), Ken Bishop ($510,000), Davon Coleman ($510,000).

The position: The Cowboys have two free agents in Henry Melton, who had five sacks last season, and Nick Hayden, who led the defensive line in tackles last season, ready to hit the free-agent market. Of the two, Hayden is the more likely to return.

In a way the Cowboys lucked into finding out Crawford’s best position was at the three technique. He spent most of the offseason and training camp at defensive end but moved inside early in the regular season and flourished. He had three sacks and 29 quarterback hurries, which are numbers that should go up the more he gets accustomed to playing the position.

He played defensive end in a 3-4 as a rookie, missed the 2013 season with a torn Achilles and had to adjust to a new spot in 2014.

The nose tackle position is important for the Cowboys, but not at the cost of a first-round pick (see Sharrif Floyd from a couple of years ago) and not for major dollars, especially if that player offers nothing as a pass-rusher. In the Cowboys system, they want the one technique to occupy space and play on running downs. Whatever they can get in the passing game is a bonus.

McClain’s first year with the Cowboys was slowed because of ankle injuries. He can play the nose spot but also has some position flexibility. Brent is the biggest tackle they have but has to work his way into the game after his off-field issues cost him roughly two seasons. Bishop was a seventh-round pick last year and played well in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Best available: Ndamukong Suh. While there are dreams that the Cowboys will make a play for Suh, they are too far-fetched. The Cowboys will not have the money to compete to sign Suh. He might be the best free agent to hit the market since Reggie White and can change the game, but the cost is just too high for Dallas. But it won’t stop a team from signing him to a deal that might be the largest for a defensive player in NFL history.

Best Cowboys fit: Stephen Paea’s ties to Rod Marinelli in Chicago make him a natural target but it will all come down to cost. Paea had six sacks last season, which would have tied for the Cowboys lead, and is not the run stopper the Cowboys might want. For that another player with Marinelli ties, Cory Redding, could be a fit on a one-year deal.

What they will do: The analytics folks won’t like it, but the Cowboys will re-sign Hayden while using the draft to find a bigger body on the inside to pair up with Brent, Bishop and McClain.

Dez Bryant gets franchise tag. Now what?

March, 4, 2015
Mar 4
10:00
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video
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer discusses Dez Bryant’s future.
Bryant/ThomasUSA TODAY Sports Wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas both have been hit with the franchise tag.

On Monday the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos used the franchise tag on wide receivers Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas.

If the players sign the tag, then they will make $12.823 million this year unless they are able to come to an agreement on a multi-year deal with another team that would be willing to give up two first-round picks as compensation or with the Cowboys or Broncos.

It’s great money, but doesn’t offer up the long-term financial security players want.

There are plenty of questions that can’t be answered at this time: Will the players take part in the offseason program? Will they show up for organized team activities or the mandatory June minicamp? Will they show up for training camp?

NFL Nation reporters Jeff Legwold and Todd Archer answer three more questions involving two of the best receivers in the NFL:

Any surprise the teams used the franchise tag?

[+] EnlargeDemaryius Thomas
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesDemaryius Thomas has 36 touchdown receptions over the past three seasons.
Legwold: Zippo. Demaryius Thomas has been the Broncos’ top priority among their list of prospective free agents, a hefty batch of names that includes several starters from a team that has won four consecutive AFC West titles. Thomas is one of three players in league history who have put together three consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 yards receiving and at least 10 touchdowns -- Jerry Rice and Marvin Harrison are the others. The team and Thomas’ representatives have traded pieces of a long-term deal at times over the last year, and the Broncos weren’t going to let him hit the open market. Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said at the scouting combine the team was going to use the franchise tag, no questions asked, if a long-term deal couldn’t be worked out.

Archer: No. The Cowboys have been heading down this road for quite some time. It was something that was talked about during training camp last summer. The Cowboys thought they were close to a deal with Bryant during the season but then it fell apart, and he eventually changed agents. The Cowboys did not meet face to face with Bryant’s new agents until last week. Those talks did not really get into the nitty-gritty of the contract but were more of a feeling out process. I’d be surprised if something got worked out here quickly. Just based on history and a gut feeling, I think the talks get going closer to the July 15 deadline.

Who will they lose because of the tag?

Legwold: The Broncos are working through some options to create some additional salary cap room, including taking a look at quarterback Peyton Manning’s contract, but the tag on Thomas takes slightly less than half of their available salary cap space (they had about $27 million or so of workable cap space at the start of business Monday with the cap set at $143.2 million). During his tenure Elway has traditionally let most of the team’s own free agents test the market before trying to re-sign them. His belief is he doesn’t want to overpay and he doesn’t believe players want to risk leaving money on the table before they see what’s out in the market for them. But the player the decision on Demaryius Thomas affects the most in terms of a potential return to the Broncos is tight end Julius Thomas, who made it clear to the team during this past season he wanted to test the open market. The Broncos weren’t ever going to go as big for a contract for Julius Thomas as he believes he can get, so his return was shaky at best, but the franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas guarantees Julius Thomas will get his best offer from someone else.

Archer: While everybody wants to say this will impact the DeMarco Murray talks, I don’t believe it will. The Cowboys can keep Murray at a top contract and have Bryant count $12.823 million against the salary cap. It is entirely doable. But what it does do is prevent them from going after big pieces in free agency to help the defense. And honestly, I don’t think the Cowboys would be in the market for the big pieces in free agency. Stephen Jones said at the combine that the dollars spent in free agency hardly ever bring the same value. So while fans might want to see a Ndamukong Suh with the Cowboys or somebody of that ilk, I truly believe the Cowboys are done with spending that kind of money. If there wasn’t a cap then absolutely they would spend. But there is a cap and you have to be smart with how you allocate that space. To me, the Cowboys can tag Bryant, sign Murray and add low-cost but effective pieces defensively in free agency and focus on defense in the draft.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/James D SmithDez Bryant has 41 touchdown receptions over the past three seasons.
Will a long-term deal get done?

Legwold: The Broncos are going to try to make sure Todd is doing this post with someone else next season. Their recent history says a deal gets done. Both tackle Ryan Clady and kicker Matt Prater had the franchise player tag put on them by the Broncos over the last four seasons and both signed long-term deals before training camp opened in that respective season. The Broncos want Thomas in a long-term contract and with a new offense set to be installed they really need him on the field for at least some of their offseason work if they can pull that off. No player is ever in a hurry to sign the franchise player tender so the prospect of Thomas sitting out all of the OTAs and minicamps is not an attractive one for a team breaking in a new playbook with a new coaching staff. The Broncos know they’re going to have to pay big -- Thomas likely doesn’t get the $40-something million guaranteed Calvin Johnson got, but the Broncos will likely have to go well north of $20 million guaranteed -- so now it’s just a matter of Thomas’ representatives seeing what the market is and the Broncos doing a deal. Nothing is ever a slam dunk in the negotiations of money matters, but a deal should get done if both sides remain willing to do one.

Archer: I have my doubts. While the Cowboys do have a solid history with Tom Condon, who will be the point person in the negotiations, I do think they will hold the fort on what they want to give Bryant. Clearly the deal they thought they had last fall was not good enough in Bryant’s eyes. I can’t tell you what the numbers were, but I’ve been told the guarantee was for more than the reported $20 million. The Cowboys will be willing to have Bryant play out the season on the tag. I believe they want a scenario in which Bryant has to earn the money every year. They did it on Terrell Owens’ first contract with the Cowboys. Bryant and Thomas could set the receiver market for the next few years with guys like Julio Jones coming up in the next year or so. Teams aren’t necessarily fans of setting the market for fear of overpaying. It would not surprise me if the Cowboys are looking at tagging Bryant for the second straight year. Maybe Jeff and I can do this post again next year.
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IRVING, Texas -- With the news that the Dallas Cowboys have reached an agreement with Cole Beasley on a four-year deal comes the natural wondering why they have not been able to strike deals for Dez Bryant or DeMarco Murray.

Beasley
Beasley's deal and the contracts for Bryant and Murray will be in far different neighborhoods.

Beasley's cap figure for 2015 is likely less than $2 million based on the $4 million signing bonus and how the Cowboys have structured deals in the past with the first-year base salaries being at or close to the NFL minimum. Once the contract numbers are filed, we'll know for sure.

The $7 million guaranteed for Beasley in the deal will be less than what Bryant and Murray will get in total compensation in the first year of their deals. As it stands right now, Bryant will make $12.82 million on the franchise tag in 2015. His guaranteed money should be more than $30 million. Murray is likely looking at a guarantee in the $20 million neighborhood.

Beasley's $3.4 million average is higher than some might have expected, but slot receivers are a valuable commodity. It is a mismatch game and Beasley, despite his size (5-8, 180 pounds) is a mismatch player. His quickness and field awareness make him difficult for slot corners to cover. Orlando Scandrick is one of the better slot corners in the NFL and he has trouble with Beasley at times.

In the past two seasons, Beasley has 76 catches and six touchdowns. His production rose toward the end of the 2014 season to where Tony Romo was looking at him and Jason Witten more than he was Bryant and Terrance Williams with how defenses were taking guarding the outside receivers.

The Cowboys could have put the low tender on Beasley as a restricted free agent for roughly $1.5 million and run the risk of a team making an offer they could not match. They would not have received compensation in return either because Beasley was an undrafted free agent. They could have put the second-round tender on Beasley for about $2.4 million, which would have guaranteed no team would have made a play for him.

But that would have eaten up more cap space in 2015, and that would have hurt the Cowboys' bid to keep Murray but had no impact on Bryant.

Every dollar counts in the salary cap.

Beasley got his piece of the puzzle and has earned it. But there is still room for bigger pieces, like Murray, that the Cowboys can fit into their puzzle.

Cowboys sign WR Cole Beasley

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
1:54
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video

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have a deal with a free-agent wide receiver. It's just not the one everybody thought would get a long-term deal done first.

Cole Beasley, who was set to be a restricted free agent, signed a four-year deal with the Cowboys on Wednesday. The contract is worth roughly $14 million, with $7 million guaranteed, according to a source.

The Cowboys had placed the franchise tag on Dez Bryant on Monday.

Dallas could have placed a second-round tender on Beasley, worth roughly $2.4 million, but gave him a multiyear deal to keep the cap numbers lower the next two seasons with more guaranteed money.

Since joining the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent, Beasley has developed into one of quarterback Tony Romo's trusted receivers. He caught 37 passes for 420 yards and four touchdowns in 2014 and has 91 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons.

While mainly a slot player, Beasley lined up more outside last season, with the Cowboys moving Bryant around the formation. After catching more than two passes in a game in just two of the first 11 games last season, Beasley had more than two catches in four of the last five games and scored three touchdowns. In the Cowboys' two playoff games, he caught seven passes for 101 yards.

Bryant reacted to the re-signing of Beasley via Twitter:


(Read full post)


Sources: Murray favors Cowboys

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
12:44
PM ET
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NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray would likely return to the Dallas Cowboys if the team's offer is equal or financially similar to those he receives from other teams as an unrestricted free agent, league sources told ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder on Tuesday.

With quality teams potentially looking for a starting running back, Murray is expecting a "vigorous" free-agent market.

Murray, 27, made $1.4 million last season, which ranked 23rd among running backs. Adrian Peterson is the highest-paid running back at $12.75 million.

Murray led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards on 392 carries in 2014. He also scored 13 touchdowns and set career highs in receptions (57) and receiving yards (416).

He broke Emmitt Smith's single-season team record of 1,773 yards set in 1995, and his 392 carries were also a team record and easily eclipsed his career mark of 217 set in 2013.

For the first time in his career, Murray did not miss a game in a season. He played the final three games, including the Cowboys' two playoff contests, with a surgically repaired broken left hand.

Murray opened the season with an NFL-record eight straight 100-yard games. Hall of Famer Jim Brown opened the 1958 season with six straight 100-yard games for the Cleveland Browns. Murray finished the season with 12 100-yard games, one more than Smith's team record set in 1995.

Murray reached 1,000 yards in the Cowboys' eighth game of the season. Only Brown, O.J. Simpson (1973, 1975) and Terrell Davis (1998) reached 1,000 yards in fewer games in a season than Murray.

ESPN.com Cowboys reporter Todd Archer contributed to this report.


(Read full post)


IRVING, Texas— For ESPN Insider, Hall of Fame pick Bill Polian put together his list of the best available free agents and not surprisingly Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray are two of the top seven players listed.

Polian gave Ndamukong Suh an A-plus. Bryant and Murray received A's. The chances of Bryant leaving the Cowboys are slimmer than Suh joining the Cowboys. The chances of Murray signing elsewhere are much greater, but Polian acknowledges durability concerns.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDeMarco Murray had 449 touches last season, by far the most of his four-year career.
Rolando McClain received a B. Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, Doug Free, Sterling Moore (restricted), George Selvie and Anthony Spencer received C's. Interestingly Jermey Parnell was not given a grade and word from the combine was he would be highly sought after when the market opens.

But what caught my eye was Polian’s Do’s and Don’ts of free agency. He has 14 rules that read a lot like Bill Parcells’ quarterback commandments.

I won’t give you every rule because it is an Insider piece, but here are the ones that I think relate to the Cowboys:

Do fill needs and make sure the player has a specific scheme fit.

Analysis: The Cowboys have made sure they filled their needs in free agency so when they went to the draft they could be more pure with their board. Scheme fit is extremely important. A 3-4 defensive end isn’t a good fit for the 4-3 and they have to be careful with 3-4 outside linebackers in converting them to defensive ends.

Do realize that you are never one player away from a championship.

Analysis: Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett have acknowledged that very thing. That’s a plus for the Cowboys.

Do be very disciplined in sticking to your budget.

Analysis: Jerry Jones talked about having flexibility in re-signing Murray, but how much is too much? To be clear, the Cowboys can keep Murray even after tagging Bryant. They can make it work under the cap. But if they stretch it too far will they be in bad shape in the future?

Don’t give a four-year or longer contract, even to an A player, who is 28 years of age or older.

Analysis: Clearly I believe this is for every position but quarterback. Almost everything goes out the window for a franchise quarterback. I think there can be some leeway here because a lot of these deals that will be signed are effectively for three years but dressed up for the cap or ego. What teams can’t do is get upside down in deals, so to speak, to where they can’t get out of a contract after three years.

Do beware of players whose production dramatically increases in their contract year.

Analysis: Is this Murray? I would say he had a special year but not one that can be replicated. It would be grossly unfair to expect any running back to duplicate 1,845 yards. But I think part of his production was tied to him being healthy. Now, Bruce Carter might be another story. He had no interceptions in his first three seasons and a team-high five in 2014.

Don’t chase the market, particularly for someone else’s player, and don’t allow agents to manipulate you.

Analysis: Stephen Jones has said over and over you’re spending great money for good players and don’t get the right value.

NFL Nation TV: Time to talk free agency

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
11:30
AM ET
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT for NFL Nation TV's Spreecast as we return for episode No. 46 with our sights fully set on free agency.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) Will be joined by four other NFL Nation reporters throughout the show.

Michael Rothstein (Detroit Lions reporter) will take us behind the Lions' decision to avoid franchise-tagging defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and also give us an idea of where the prized lineman might end up.

Mike Reiss (New England Patriots reporter) will join to make sense of New England's decision to place the franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, instead of potentially doing so with free-agent defensive backs Darrelle Revis or Devin McCourty.

Todd Archer (Dallas Cowboys reporter) will give us an update on the Cowboys' apparent decision to let DeMarco Murray, 2014's rushing leader, test the open market.

Sticking with offense, Rob Demovsky (Green Bay Packers reporter) checks in to outline why the Packers may be content doing the same with receiver Randall Cobb, who reportedly was looking to stay in Green Bay for $12 million a year.

As always, viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

Cowboys' free-agent needs: Defensive end

March, 3, 2015
Mar 3
10:30
AM ET
With free agency starting March 10, it is time to break down the Dallas Cowboys' needs and wants. Teams can start talking with players on Saturday.

Defensive end

What they have: Jeremy Mincey ($1.5 million base salary), DeMarcus Lawrence ($670,302), Jack Crawford ($660,000), Lavar Edwards ($585,000), Kenneth Boatright ($510,000), Ben Gardner ($435,000)

Spencer
The position: There is a major need for an upgrade at defensive end. Mincey led the Cowboys with six sacks last season, and Lawrence came on in the playoffs, but there is not another known commodity.

Until the Cowboys find a bona fide pass-rushing threat, like they had for years in DeMarcus Ware, they will continue to throw numbers at the position and hope that the sum is greater than the parts. George Selvie and Anthony Spencer are free agents, and the Cowboys are open to their return, but at the right price. In reality, they are likely in an either/or scenario, but not both, as the Cowboys look to upgrade.

They had just 28 sacks last season and need more from their defensive front. They believe Lawrence is ready to make a big jump, and hope Mincey can repeat the numbers he had in 2014. They won’t be major players for the big-names, like a Greg Hardy, who remains on the Commissioner’s Exempt List, but they should be able to find help with players on short-term contracts who won’t break the bank.

Best available: Jerry Hughes. He had 19.5 sacks the past two seasons with the Buffalo Bills after an extremely disappointing run as a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts. There is still some "buyer beware" with him, but he turns 27 in August and has produced well in back-to-back seasons.

Best Cowboys fit: Hughes is likely to cost too much to secure, and the same could be true for Brandon Graham. His departure would weaken a division rival and give the Cowboys a solid -- if not top-end -- pass rusher. But money will matter and the Cowboys could look to another division rival for help on a short-term, make-good deal: Brian Orakpo. Health is the biggest issue with him. Perhaps being a situational pass-rusher will help him stay healthy.

What they will do: Of all the names mentioned above, Spencer makes the most sense. They know him. He knows them. It won’t take a lot of money to bring him back. They can come up with a solid structure on a deal that will pay him more if he produces more, with incentives. Orakpo would make sense, too, but the Cowboys will also need to go the draft route as they look to overhaul their front over the next two seasons.

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