Free agency begins Friday in the NFL, as does the 2009 NFL league year, and while the Cowboys are fairly certain which players will stay and which will go, who is coming in remains a mystery.
The most notable of the Cowboys free agents is Chris Canty. It has been reported many times that he is seeking the kind of contracts that every player in the NFL dreams of, the only problem is that he didn’t well enough to earn that kind of money from the Cowboys.
In the past three years, in which he has started every game, he has proven himself to be a solid and reliable defensive end, often given credit for maintaining his blocks and allowing outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware to gain the most sacks of any player in the last two years. Ware fell just short of tying the NFL record set by Michael Strahan several years back.
So the Cowboys are going to let Canty test the free agent market beginning this Friday, and while they probably have hopes that he will come to his senses over the dollars and cents, it’s widely speculated that another club will pay him more than the Cowboys will.
This leaves a void on the end of the Cowboys’ three man defensive front, and many aren’t confident enough in reserves Stephen Bowen or Jason Hatcher to just hand either of them the reigns.
The draft class with respect to defensive ends isn’t the greatest in recent memory, though some solid players could still be available when the Cowboys make their first selection with the 51st over all pick. Considering that pressure and run stopping were the best features of the Cowboys 2008 defense, it’s probable that the Cowboys will try to shore up other needs with their first pick. Safety and linebacker appearing to top the lists depending on where you look.
* In favor of starting off fresh, the Oakland Raiders have cut ties with DE Kalimba Edwards after the first of his two year deal with the team. Though he is a little underweight for a 3-4 end, his large stature makes him a viable option for the club. He spent the first six years of his career in Detroit before going to Oakland, and has 31 sacks and 208 tackles in his seven year career.
* Another, slightly smaller option, is recently available end Anthony Weaver of the Houston Texans. Also a seven year vet, the former Raven has demonstrated better skill against the run rather than pass rushing with 257 tackles and only 15.5 sacks. The run defense is an area that the Cowboys look to improve for 2009 despite have mostly solid numbers against the run in 2008.
* Out of Buffalo we also have Anthony Hargrove, who is expected to be a free agent come Friday after serving a one year suspension from the league for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. He never really had the chance to live up to his potential due to his issues, but many believed him to be a solid starting caliber end. It’s a project similar to that of Pacman Jones, and most Dallas fans would be against it. However, given that his problem was one of drugs and not attitude, he may be a suitable project given his talent if the numbers are right.
Regardless of how the Cowboys handle their upcoming need at defensive end, don’t look for any proven players to show up. The Cowboys salary cap space, or lack thereof, should prevent them from signing any big name players; even there were a great crop to choose from in this year’s free agent pool. The draft might just be the way to go, but we won’t know for another month exactly how the free agency period will end up.