>\n\nWorst to First: 27. Dallas Cowboys \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 27. Dallas Cowboys

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/20/2010

With yet another crushing playoff loss after a good season the Dallas Cowboys are at something of a cross-roads. Can they win the big one with Tony Romo? With a Superbowl window fast closing thanks to an aging Offensive Line do they even have the time to find a new QB or will they just have to adjust the way they play to minimise the number of rushed decisions their QB has to make? Well, it seems like Flozell Adams has carried the can for the Cowboys Offensive Line woes versus the Vikings and he's been dumped onto the free agent market. There's also some issues in the secondary where the disappointing Ken Hamlin has also been cut loose. So there's a couple of major holes but for the most part this is a franchise with most of the piece to the puzzle in place and if they could just improve those 2 problem areas they will yet again be in the shakedown for the playoffs and in with another shot of collapsing once they get there.

2010 Free Agent Losses 2010 Free Agent Additions
   
2010 Unsigned Free Agents 2011 Potential Free Agents
Flozell Adams T (UFA-cut), Miles Austin WR (RFA), Cletis Gordon DB (RFA), Ken Hamlin FS (UFA-cut), Montrae Holland G (UFA), Sam Hurd WR (RFA), Duke Preston C (RFA), Gerald Sensabaugh SS (RFA), Shaun Suisham K (RFA), Pat Watkins SS (RFA)

Deon Anderson RB (RFA), Alan Ball DB (RFA), Stephen Bowen DL (UFA), Bobby Carpenter LB (UFA), Doug Free OT (RFA), Cletis Gordon DB (UFA), Jason Hatcher DE (UFA), Sam Hurd WR (UFA), Curtis Johnson LB (RFA), Kyle Kosier OG (UFA), Pat McQuistan OT (UFA), Steve Octavien LB (RFA), Cory Procter OG (UFA), Junior Siavi DL (UFA), Marcus Spears DL (UFA), Pat Watkins S (UFA)
Quarterbacks Minimal Need
Tony Romo does a consistent job of delivering good yardage, a good TD:INT ration and crushing playoff losses. Which begs the question, can Dallas go all the way with Romo or is he one of those guys who just folds under pressure? Well to be fair, he folded underneath Jared Allen this year. The very best QBs can deal with pressure from pass rushers. Take a look at Peyton Manning. I didn't think much of his protection this year but Manning took a league low number of sacks because he never panics. I'm not convinced Romo can take the pressure without panicking. Which gives them 2 choices, look for another QB or look to keep defenders off him more. When you've got a guy who can lead you into the playoffs most years, I think you have to go with upping the protection. With Jon Kitna providing veteran backup ability and Stephen McGee as a developmental type they'd likely only be looking at a late rounder or undrafted type.

Runningbacks No Need
Marion Barber III seems to be the constant source of trade rumours and he has never managed a 1000 yard season despite threatening it a couple of times. Dallas paid up a big option payment on his contract recently though. It seems like a lot of money to throw away for a mid round draft choice, which would be about the most the Cowboys could expect for MB3. So I figure he'll still be around to share carried with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. A nightmare for Fantasy Football players everywhere, it could be a nightmare for opposing Defenses as all 3 are more than capable backs. As such, I can't call this anything but No Need.
 
Wide Receivers Major Need
Well this is an interesting one. Miles Austin seems poised to join the NFL Elite at WR. If he isn't already. Roy Williams is looking like being a bust though. Despite a couple of good games he mostly disappointing in 2009 and 2010 will probably be his last chance in Dallas. With relatively untried Kevin Ogletree, limited Patrick Crayton and a couple of mostly special teams types, it's not too surprising that the Cowboys have had every top WR in college football through the doors this offseason. I'm not sure how serious they are about any of them and despite being redflagged by some teams, it's still unlikely Dez Bryant would fall to #27. I'm pretty sure Jerruh would pull the trigger if he did though. I'm no Roy Williams fan but with Jason Witten the #2 (or #1!) receiving threat his output's not awful. With Crayton chipping in and Ogletree getting more looks they should be fine for this year. But WRs take time to show in the NFL so I could still legitimately call this a Major Need with an eye on 2011.

Tight Ends No Need
Any team with Jason Witten's going to be happy with it's TE situation. When you chip in talented Martellus Bennett and John Phillips, who was useful at the end of the year, it's pretty much the envy of most teams in the league.

Offensive Line Major Need
The loss of Flozzell Adams is probably the biggest thing the Cowboys must deal with this offseason. They're making all the right noises about Doug Free being the Left Tackle and he does have good athletic ability which having watched the Cowboys tackles embarrassed by the Vikings pass rush in the playoffs, is something of a must. As I mentioned earlier Romo under pressure in big games doesn't seem to work too well. If they hope to go to the big dance with Romo they're going to need to keep the pressure off him. The Cowboys have traditionally gone for the huge side of beef type Offensive Linemen who just flat out maul in the running game but free is much slimmer and nimble. That could be the way forward for the Cowboys even if Free doesn't end up the starting left tackle. And that could very well have them looking at guys like Bruce Campbell or Charles Brown with their first round pick. The problems for the Cowboys don't end at Left Tackle though. Marc Colombo on the right was just as embarrassed by the Vikings and he's 31, but let's give Colombo some benefit of the doubt, he was returning from injury and the Cowboys run game hits another level when Colombo's in the line up. Age is becoming an issue in the middle as well and although they're all quality performers there is a definite need for some new blood on the inside. Due to age and the uncertainty over Free, I'm calling this a Major Need with the proviso that I wouldn't expect the Cowboys to reach with their first rounder. If a top tackle falls, great. If not they probably look at another position and go with Free for 2010, maybe picking up a tackle a little later.

Defensive Tackles No Need
Jay Ratliff is a great 3-4NT. He's not what you'd call ideal size for the position but he's All Pro calibre. He's got another couple of years after this on his contract and he's only 28. No problems with the starter then. Underneath is Junior Siavii, a former second rounder who's never really panned out but did some decent work last year when Ratliff was out. He'll be an unrestricted free agent next year and it's debateable if they'd opt to offer him a longer term deal so it may be a need next year but at the moment it isn't.

Defensive Ends Minor Need
Losing Chris Canty was expected to hurt. But Igor Olshansky and Marcus Spears did a fine job and so did the 3rd guy in the rotation, Stephen Bowen who could challenge Spears for a starting spot this year. So impressed were the Cowboys that it's rumoured Spears could be on the trading block. With a few 3-4 Defense converts again this season he could be an attractive prospect as a stop gap. If he were to go obviously the Cowboys would be a little weaker here but they still have Jason Hatcher as well. If they keep Spears they'll be in a great position for this year. If they don't, they'll still be in a good slot too. However, if you take a look up top at the 2011 Potential Free Agents list you'll see that Spears, Bowen and Hatcher are all unrestricted free agents next year. And if they don't get extensions soon with the number of new 3-4 teams out there these guys could be off just like Canty. In addition to that, with 3-4DE usually requiring a college DT to change position and assignments it's not a place you want to throw a rookie in. I'm putting this at Minor Need with an eye on 2011.

Linebackers Minimal Need
DeMarcus Ware may very well be the best 3-4OLB in the league. So no problems on one side, on the other despite a horrible start to the season Anthony Spencer finally clicked into gear, recording 6 late season sacks to give Cowboys fans some big hope for this coming year. In addition, rookie OLB Victor Butler may be undersized but he had an oversized impact in limited playing time. So there's some depth there too. Not an awful lot, but some. On the inside Keith Brooking continues to defy his age but all good things must come to an end one day. At 34 Brooking is on borrowed time but there's no reason yet to want to bust him out of the line up. Paired with Bradie James it's tough to run on the Cowboys. Bobby Carpenter's been a disappointment in the NFL (like most of his storied OSU LB colleagues). He seems to lack a bit of aggression but he's still a useful backup. The Cowboys first pick last year was Jason Williams and he's the 4th man on the ILB depth chart currently. He's a work in progress coming out of a smaller programme but has exceptional athletic ability. The Cowboys could even look to ship Carpenter on elsewhere because they seem to like Williams' ability. If they're right about Williams they may even have their Brooking replacement on the roster. With Carpenter a possible trade and with Brooking's age this could end up being a Minor Need but for the moment, because of Williams I'm putting it as Minimal.

Cornerbacks Minor Need
In Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman provide a good starting tandem but with more and more offenses showing 3 wide looks more and more of the time, the Cowboys must improve on Orlando Scandrick. Scandrick is presumably still a bit charred after being burnt repeatedly last season. In Scandrick's defense he is about to enter his 3rd year and CB, like WR is a job it often takes a few years to grow into. Even so it's a risk to take going into the season with just what they have. They could definitely do with drafting a CB who has more than just Special Teams ability who may be able to man the nickel, even as a rookie. With a number of second and third round types of Corners it could be an option.

Safeties Major Need
Gerald Sensabaugh will be fine in one safety slot but at present Alan Ball, a lightweight converted cornerback and Michael Hamlin, who has nice size but lacks speed are slated into the Free Safety spot. This is because Dallas cut Ken Hamlin. Hamlin used to be a really good safety but he had a pretty awful year in 2009 so the Cowboys will move on. Pat Watkins could enter the equation as well but he's injury prone and apparently on the trading block. I've no doubt they'd love to be picking Earl Thomas but there is no way he lasts to their pick and I don't think they have the ammunition to trade up higher unless it involves a really good player or two. Safeties likely to be around at their spot include Taylor Mays who I don't think would fit with what they're after, we think he's all Strong Safety in the NFL. Unless they think Sensabaugh could play Free Safety, I'm skeptical. But this is the franchise who drafted Roy Williams so who knows. They could either reach for another Safety in round 1 like Nate Allen or see what's left at the tail end of round 2... there should still be some useful guys about. Chad Jones has been in for a visit, he should still be available then along with dudes like Morgan Burnett.
 
Specialists Minimal Need
Big legged kick off specialist David Buehler should get a good shot at being more than just a one trick pony this year. Connor Hughes adds a fall back option to him as Kicker. Anyone other than these two is unlikely to arrive via the draft. Mat McBriar shouldn't have to contend with anything other than a free agent pickup. His job is pretty safe.

Return Game Minor Need
Patrick Crayton's a very good punt returner but with last year's main man on kick returns (Felix Jones) figuring to see a big increase in his role on offense they could be on the look out for another returner. Jones didn't exactly light it up anyway.

Dream Day One
     
1.27 Bruce Campbell OT Maryland
2.59 Nate Allen S South Florida
 
Player Visits
Dez Bryant WR Oklahoma State
Jared Odrick DE/DT Penn State
Mike Iupati OG Idaho
Kyle Wilson CB Boise State
Brandon Lafell WR LSU
Taylor Price WR Ohio
Sean Lee LB Penn State
Navorro Bowman LB Penn State
John Connor FB Kentucky
Brandon Ghee CB Wake Forest
Morgan Burnett FS Georgia Tech
Arrelious Benn WR Illinois
Vladimir Ducasse OT Massachusetts
Chad Jones S LSU
Nate Allen S USF
Maurkice Pouncey C Florida
John Jerry OG Mississippi
Clay Harbour TE Missouri State
Devin McCourty CB Rutgers
Akwasi Owusu-Ansah CB Indiana (PA)
Bruce Campbell OT Maryland

Last Edited: 04/14/2010




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