The Dallas Cowboys finally jumped into the NFL free-agent market with the Wednesday’s signings of linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen.
Both players visited the team Monday and took physicals. Both agreed to deals Tuesday, but they couldn’t be made official until the Cowboys cleared room under the salary cap.
The Cowboys had just $102,000 in space under the $123 million cap for 2013 heading into Wednesday. But they restructured the contract of backup quarterback Kyle Orton and released wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, freeing roughly $1 million.
The Cowboys have less than $25,000 in cap space now. But they accomplished their goal of getting Durant and Allen in the fold to give them some insurance at linebacker and safety, where Kyle Wilber and Matt Johnson are at the top of the depth chart.
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Durant, who signed for two years, will compete with Wilber, a 2012 fourth-round pick, for the starting job at strongside linebacker. Durant is a six-year veteran with 68 career starts with Jacksonville and Detroit. He started 14 games for the Lions last season, recording 103 tackles.
Allen has largely been a backup in a nine-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers. He has 33 career starts, including seven the past three years in Pittsburgh, all as an injury replacement.
But Allen is an excellent special teams player who has a history with Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin dating to their days together in Tampa Bay.
He knows the Tampa 2 scheme and will give the Cowboys a veteran option if Johnson doesn’t develop at free safety. The signing also doesn’t preclude the Cowboys from targeting a safety in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Orton is the latest Cowboys player to restructure his contract to clear cap room.
Also released for cap purposes were safety Gerald Sensabaugh, defensive end Marcus Spears and linebacker Dan Connor.