Dallas Cowboys

Five big off-season questions for the Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Nick Hayden (96) and  coach Jason Garrett head into the off-season after the loss at Green Bay with questions about hype, free agency and how best to upgrade.
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Nick Hayden (96) and coach Jason Garrett head into the off-season after the loss at Green Bay with questions about hype, free agency and how best to upgrade. Star-Telegram

1 Super Bowl hype?

The Cowboys exceeded expectations this season, going 12-4, winning the NFC East and a wild-card game. They should return most of their cornerstone players, starting with quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and three Pro Bowl offensive linemen, as well as most of their coaching staff. That will make the Cowboys a trendy pick as a legitimate Super Bowl contender going into next season.

2 Pay the man?

Dez Bryant had another impressive season with 88 catches, 1,320 receiving yards and a franchise-record 16 touchdown receptions. His rookie contract is up, and each side has stated they’d like to reach a long-term agreement. If that doesn’t happen, though, expect the Cowboys to use the franchise tag on Bryant.

3 Pay the man, Part II?

Similar to Bryant, running back

DeMarco Murray finds himself in line for a hefty contract. He was the NFL’s leading rusher and finally showed the durability that has eluded him most of his career. But Murray took on a heavy workload this season, something that could be worrisome to teams. Regardless, someone is going to value Murray and his production with the sizable contract. But is it going to be the Cowboys?

4 What will happen with Melton, McClain, Durant?

Henry Melton, who reinjured his knee against Washington, won’t have his $9 million option picked up, but could be an intriguing player to bring back on a frugal guaranteed contract. Jerry Jones has also said it is one of his priorities to re-sign Rolando McClain, who, when healthy, was the team’s best player on defense. Sean Lee will return in 2015, and with rookie Anthony Hitchens’ success, the Cowboys should be strong at linebacker. Justin Durant could also return on a team-friendly contract, as the Cowboys like him when healthy. Ends Anthony Spencer and George Selvie, however, could be gone as free agents.

5 What is the team’s

biggest draft need?

Anyone who watched a gimpy Aaron Rodgers sit in the pocket largely untouched last Sunday against the Cowboys can see Dallas needs a dominant pass rusher.

DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford showed some potential, but expect the Cowboys to look for an edge pass rusher at No. 27 in Round 1 after going offensive line the past couple of years. Or they could possibly acquire a rusher on the free-agent market that is headed by the New York Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul and the Buffalo Bills’ Jerry Hughes, a TCU product. Other needs could include the secondary, defensive tackle and possibly running back if Murray bolts.

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