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    Cowboys Free Agency: Week 2 Preview

    On March 4th I put out an article with the Cowboys' top-five needs as I saw them at the time. We have had several transactions since then which have shifted priorities now as we had into the second week of NFL . Here's a quick reminder of those needs as I saw them nine days ago:

    1. Cornerback/
    2. Quarterback
    3. Defensive

    Let's do a quick look at moves that gave impacted these positions and see how the may have shifted.

    Defensive End

    Cowboys Headlines - Spending on Defensive End is a MUST 4
    The Cowboys have let the first wave of free agency pass without adding a pass rusher. This was the position where a major signing was most expected.

    ADDED: None
    LOST: None
    UNSIGNED: Greg Hardy,

    Dallas has sat back while names like Olivier Vernon, Mario Williams, and flew off the shelf quickly. There was rumored interest between the Cowboys and Chris Long but no visit was ever scheduled.

    With no additions and two of their key players from last year remaining unsigned, plus facing a four-game suspension to start the year, defensive end remains the team's biggest need. Long and Hardy are the two biggest names available but the Cowboys have yet to show any tangible interest in either. Much like we saw with the signing, Dallas could have their eyes on someone unexpected. I anticipate them signing someone with starting-level talent this week.

    Cornerback/Safety

    ADDED: , Josh Thomas,
    LOST: None
    UNSIGNED: Danny McCray

    Cowboys Headlines - Brandon Carr Decision Expected This WeekSo far the Cowboys have focused on talent retention over adding fresh faces. Not only have they brought back Claiborne and Thomas at cornerback and Heath at safety but, to the surprise of many, remains under his existing contract.

    Dallas had a visit with free agent Nolan Carroll, previously with the Eagles, on March 10th but then ended up re-signing Claiborne a day later. The visit with Carroll may have been a negotiating tactic to push Claiborne to accept their offer. Perhaps Carroll is who they'd like to sign if they end up releasing Carr. Either way, it doesn't seem Dallas is interested in any of the top names in the cornerback market.

     

    If Dallas keep Carr or adds another corner upon releasing him then it would all but confirm that Byron Jones will be a safety next year. Dallas would still have flexibility at safety as they can cut Barry Church for solid cap relief or Heath as his tender is non-guaranteed. There would also be a minimal penalty for cutting J.J. Wilcox, leaving their options fully open.

    Eric Weddle is still out there and many fans are clamoring for Dallas to give the veteran Pro Bowler. The Cowboys have been linked to Weddle but you never know how much stock to put in that, since Dallas gets thrown into almost every discussion to attract an audience. Still, Weddle remains an intriguing option and the only major name out there who I think Dallas could possibly be looking to add.

    Quarterback

    Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Free Agency: Week 2 Preview
    and have been teammates before. They appear to remain friends.

    ADDED: None
    LOST: Matt Cassel (Titans)
    UNSIGNED: None

    Veteran Matt Moore visited with the Cowboys last Thursday but remains a free agent. Despite still having Kellen Moore signed it appears Dallas wants to bring in another veteran to compete with him, as well as whoever they may add in next month's draft.

    Much discussed before free agency began as a potential target for the Cowboys, is still unsigned. Ryan Fitzpatrick, who many thought would get a starting job somewhere, may be looking for any kind of work if someone doesn't call him soon. It appears likely that Dallas will add one of these veterans in the next few weeks.

    Defensive Tackle

    ADDED: Cedric Thornton (Eagles)
    LOST: None
    UNSIGNED: , , Casey Walker

    The Cowboys appear to have moved on from Hayden after three years with the addition of Thornton. After playing a 3-4 defensive end in Philadelphia Thornton will play inside in Dallas, having the size to play the one-technique but also some pass-rushing skills that could keep him on the field in nickel and other schemes.

    Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Free Agency: Week 2 Preview 1
    (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

    Jack Crawford is a versatile lineman who can play both end and tackle, a role we've seen filled by both Mincey and Hardy over the last two years. I think Dallas could easily end up re-signing him after he's been able to test the market a bit, likely getting him for a minimal deal. The need may not be as much as before the Thornton signing but versatile reserves are never a bad thing at any position.

    With the Thornton addition and the continued employment of Terrell McClain and David Irving, not to mention Tyrone Crawford, it would appear that the Cowboys are fairly set at . At most they will add depth options, such as the aforementioned Jack Crawford, or mid or late-round rookie talent.

    Linebacker

    ADDED: Rolando McClain, Kyle Wilber
    LOST: None
    UNSIGNED: None

    After re-signing McClain and Wilber the Cowboys now have their entire 2015 linebacker corps returning. McClain will re-join as assured starters while Wilber will be in the mix with Andrew Gachkar, Anthony Hitchens, , and Damien Wilson for the third starting spot and backup roles. The financial details of Wilber's deal are not yet known.

    Dallas could still add talent in the draft but it would appear they are mostly done with the linebacker position in free agency. Not only are they bringing back all of their young prospects but Nzeocha is essentially a fresh face after missing most of last year with injuries. Compared to other positions, I think they will be content with the relative stability they have here.

    ~ ~ ~

    So with those moves, how have the rankings changed? Here is my updated top five:

    1. Defensive End
    2. Quarterback
    3. Running Back
    4. Another Defensive End

    We've already discussed the first two in detail. I put defensive end on here twice because the Cowboys are ridiculously thin at the position right now. Their Week One starters would be and , who was active in just one game all last year. They clearly have to add some bodies and still need a starter opposite Lawrence who they can count on for a full year.

    Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys Free Agency: Week 2 Preview 2At running back, the situation behind right now isn't great. is visiting other teams and Robert Turbin remains unsigned, leaving some guy named Rod Smith as the only backup. My free agent of choice is Alfred Morris, formerly of Washington, who has the kind of one-cut running style that suits our line very well. There are several other options out there but nobody jumps off the page as an upgrade to what Dallas would have by just re-signing Turbin. Whoever they add, we can all agree that significantly better depth is needed before entering a second year with McFadden. His history for performance and health problems after a big year is consistently ugly.

    The departure of to Jacksonville leaves backup center as another important consideration. Ronald Leary is coming back but has not impressed when Dallas has tried him there before. There is talk that could play it in an emergency but that means impacting two positions. Another player with Bernadeau's versatility would be great but, with Leary re-signed, Dallas can afford to add just a pure center as well.

    Could the Cowboys be more active this week now that the first wave and the big contracts have passed? We'll find out soon.

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    Jess Haynie
    Jess Haynie
    Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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    Ethan

    I totally agree with this assessment. To say their approach is a head scratcher is quite an understatement. I get that they are afraid of free agency given their horrible recent past and are finally out from under dead $, but to bury your head in the sand when there are so many areas to improve a roster is an absolutely futile approach. We will find out in Jan-Feb if not before if this was a failed approach.

    Randy Martin

    Good assessment Jess but I gotta call you out on something. We had CB/Safety as a need and we have signed Claiborne, Thomas, and Heath and all the sudden you now no longer consider it as a top 5 need! Big miss there bud. I would like to think with Claiborne another year removed from injury and Scandrick coming back from an ACL we have a foundation but Thomas is essentially a practice squad guy and Heath is special teams with the ability to play in a pinch. I still see CB as a major need as we haven't done much of anything to strengthen it.