Dallas Cowboys

Deep-pocket Cowboys will be patient, frugal in free agency

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr shows his dejection sitting in the end zone after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 33-27 in overtime at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 8. Carr has a base salary of $9.1 million and counts $13.8 million against the salary cap. He could be released by the Cowboys as they go into the free-agency period.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr shows his dejection sitting in the end zone after the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Dallas Cowboys 33-27 in overtime at AT&T Stadium on Nov. 8. Carr has a base salary of $9.1 million and counts $13.8 million against the salary cap. He could be released by the Cowboys as they go into the free-agency period. Star-Telegram

Money won’t be an issue for the Dallas Cowboys when free agency begins Wednesday, but don’t expect them to rush after any big-ticket items.

The Cowboys haven’t spent big since they signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50.1 million contract in 2012. Suffice it to say, their deep pockets have learned their lesson.

With a lot of needs to fill, the Cowboys will look to be bargain shoppers on the second wave of free agency. They will be idle early when the big money is likely to flow.

Within a plan that we have ... we can go do what we want to do.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones

“We still need to keep responsibility and not blow things out for us in years to come,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “Just to say that we’ve got enough money, that we can have a free-spending year, is not the case. Within a plan that we have of how to maintain some cap flexibility year in and year out, we can go do what we want to do.”

The NFL free agency negotiating period begins at 11 a.m. Monday. But no contracts can be executed until free agency officially begins at 3 p.m. Wednesday — allowing teams to sign unrestricted free agents.

What will the Cowboys do with Brandon Carr?

Carr has a base salary of $9.1 million and counts $13.8 million against the cap. Those numbers are too high for a cornerback with no interceptions the past two seasons. Will he finally be a cap casualty? The Cowboys blinked last year but they’re unlikely to go another off-season without addressing Carr. “The big issue here is the price,” Jones said. “He’s a good player. It’s the price.”

Which free agents will the Cowboys keep?

The Cowboys have a lot of free agents, but none of the big-money variety such as Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray from a year ago. Jones said he would like to keep middle linebacker Rolando McClain, and defensive end Jack Crawford looks to be a priority as well because of the lack of depth on the line. Nick Hayden, Lance Dunbar and James Hanna shouldn’t cost much to retain, and Morris Claiborne and Greg Hardy likely won’t be pursued.

As free agency looms, the owner says there are reasons he may want the controversial defensive end back with Dallas. (Video by Clarence Hill)

Will the Cowboys sign a veteran backup quarterback?

The Cowboys are saying all the right things about Kellen Moore, but they will likely draft a quarterback and need a veteran to bridge the gap and win games behind Tony Romo. Colt McCoy and former Southlake Carroll star Chase Daniel are proven free agent options to come in and compete with Moore to be Romo’s primary backup.

Tony Romo updated the status of his collarbone, as well as talked Cowboys draft, during a promotional event at Legoland on Saturday. Video by Drew Davison.

Could DeMarco Murray return to Dallas?

There has been a lot of speculation about Murray being unhappy in Philadelphia and wanting to return to Dallas. There is no way that the Eagles will simply cut the running back and let him walk back to the Cowboys. Murray’s price still might be too high for the Cowboys even if he is released — at least that is the feeling from his camp. Murray would love to return to Dallas, and the Cowboys would love to have him at the right price.

Whom should the Cowboys target?

Former San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle would be a terrific pickup if the Cowboys can get him at the right price. His agent believes he will have a big market, but this could be a wait-and-see prospect. Green Bay cornerback Casey Hayward is a young option to replace either Claiborne or Carr. Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams or Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson could come to Dallas and revive their careers the way DeMarcus Ware did with Denver.

At the NFL combine, Jones discussed the possibility of drafting a running back early this year.

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