NFL free agency officially begins Tuesday, although teams were allowed a three-day negotiation window that began Saturday. For the Dallas Cowboys, running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant are in play for similar, yet different ways. Dallas also signed offensive lineman Doug Free to a three-year, $15 million deal on Saturday. Here’s a look at some issues facing the Cowboys during free agency:
What are the in-house priorities?
Outside of Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have a number of decisions to make among their own free agents. They signed offensive lineman Doug Free to a three-year deal Saturday, likely sending Jermey Parnell elsewhere. It could be either/or at defensive end between Anthony Spencer and George Selvie, and the same at linebacker among Bruce Carter, Justin Durant and Rolando McClain. Carter is likely gone. Durant and McClain are not slam dunks.
Can they keep
The Cowboys want DeMarco Murray to stay. They have done their homework on him as well as on other backs. They have a dollar figure in mind, but they do not intend to break the bank. Murray will test his value on the market in what is his last real bite at the apple and only chance to parlay his record-breaking season into big money. There is no guarantee he gives the Cowboys a chance to match an offer.
A new deal for Dez Bryant
Dez Bryant has been given the franchise tag. The Cowboys will continue to work on a long-term deal. But will Bryant sign the tender? If he does, will he boycott the off-season program? If he doesn’t, will he hold out entirely? All are options, as well as another team possibly signing Bryant to a contract and giving the Cowboys two first-round picks in return. Look for the Cowboys to match the latter.
Will they go after big-name players?
Big names are always associated with the Cowboys in free agency because owner Jerry Jones has been known as a big spender. But these Cowboys have a new focus under Stephen Jones, who is clearly in charge now. Stephen Jones says history has shown there will not be great value on the market. Look for the Cowboys to be bargain shoppers. So no to Ndamukong Suh or any other big-ticket players.
Getting the money right
The Cowboys head into free agency with roughly $2 million in cap space after the Dez Bryant franchise tag and the Cole Beasley and Doug Free deals. They need money for restricted tenders and to sign the draft class, as well as for free-agent moves. Look for Brandon Carr to take a pay cut or be cut. They will likely restructure Tyron Smith’s contract. Look for them to resist restructuring Tony Romo and his league-high cap figure until they absolutely have to and/or an important signing is afoot.
The Adrian Peterson question?
There has been a lot talk about Adrian Peterson being traded to Dallas or being signed by the Cowboys to replace Murray. Peterson is still the property of the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys have no interest in trading for Peterson’s $12.75 million 2015 salary. If Peterson’s wants to maximize his money, he will stay in Minnesota. He won’t get close to that in Dallas or anywhere else. In pro football, always follow the money.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.,