Some may still be focused on Peyton Manning's legacy and Cam Newton's petulance, but for many NFL fans our eyes are already looking ahead to offseason business. Monday was the first day that teams could begin waiving players and we've already seen a few cuts by the Eagles, Falcons, and Saints. More moves are sure to come and, of course, we're all waiting for the first news to come out of Dallas.
Today I thought we'd go through the important dates on the NFL calendar over the next few months and see what we have to look forward to. Some of these moves are purely speculation, obviously, but isn't that what makes this time of year so much fun?
February 8th - Waivers Begin
Teams may now release players within the 2016 "contract year." They may also designate up to two players as "post-June 1st" cuts to split the dead money over the next two seasons.
The big focus for a potential Cowboys release is cornerback Brandon Carr. He could be released for about $6.5 million in cap savings if cut outright and $9 million if done with the June 1st tag. It seems a foregone conclusion that Carr will be released if he does not accept a pay cut the way Doug Free did in 2013. Carr was unwilling to do this last year but may be more motivated now that he turns 30 in May.
Barry Church is the only other key player with potential to be released. The last figure I saw was $4.25 million off the cap. That would go about halfway to paying the salary of a top-tier free agent safety, such as Eric Berry, if Dallas is looking to upgrade the position. However, I could also see Dallas electing to keep Church at a relatively low salary and seeing how he performs with Byron Jones as his new partner.
Also possible right now are contract restructurings and Dallas has several candidates for that. Tyron Smith, Tyrone Crawford, and Dez Bryant all seem likely to have their deals reworked and projections are up to about $25 million in cap room gained from those moves. Jason Witten is another candidate though a little less assured due to age. Although they also have big contracts with movable money, Tony Romo and Sean Lee seem unlikely for restructure due to concerns about their health and longevity.
February 16 - Franchise Tagging Begins
It seems highly unlikely that Dallas will use the franchise tag on any of their 2016 free agents. It would pay anywhere from $12-$15 million for guys like Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain, neither of whom has earned that kind of payday. No other free agent is even close to matching their level contribution or potential for next year.
February 23 - NFL Scouting Combine
Cowboys fans will likely be more interested in this year's Combine than others with the fourth overall pick to consider. It hasn't been since 2011 that Dallas had the potential to land any of the draft's biggest names and it is sure to create added excitement and chatter around the event. All of the debates we're having now about rookie quarterbacks and "need versus talent" will only be amplified.
March 9 - Free Agency Opens
Though negotiations can begin about 48 hours prior, the market truly opens at 4:00 pm EST on Wednesday, March 9th. Given the potential for cap space that we discussed above, Dallas could be major players in this year's free agency. It will be the first time in several years that they've had the cap flexibility to do so.
Topping the list for Dallas' free agent targets will likely be defensive players. They should add at least one defensive back, either at corner or safety, and may be looking for one of each. Defensive line will also be a focus as they look to continue rehabbing their pass rush. If they don't bring Rolando McClain back then a replacement there, or a talented upgrade on the strongside, could be in the cards.
On offense their targets may be a younger running back to pair with Darren McFadden or an upgrade at their number-two receiver. Some certainly want a better right tackle than Doug Free but the draft is more likely for that than free agency, especially with Chaz Green in the mix. A new veteran at backup quarterback, such as the much-discussed Robert Griffin III or Johnny Highball, will also be a focus.
As for the Cowboys' own free agents, most of them could go either way for staying or leaving. I think McClain has decent potential to come back on an incentive-heavy deal but could also see them looking for more consistency and reliability. Hardy wasn't worth the headaches in 2015 but maybe they feel like they've weathered the storm and could get him now at a bargain. Morris Claiborne is an interesting case and it's tough to tell what his market value will be or the team's remaining value in him.
March 20-23 - NFL Annual Meeting
Could we figure out what a catch is? That would be lovely.
April 22 - Deadline for RFA's to Sign Offers
Guard Ronald Leary and safety Jeff Heath are the only restricted free agents Dallas has this year. Both were undrafted so the original pick tender, likely about $1.5 million in 2016, doesn't do much good if they're trying to hang on to Leary. They would have to give him the 2nd-round pick tender of about $2.5 million, which isn't a bad price for a talented and system-familiar backup. Heath could get the original pick tender due to his experience and special teams value, but may also be squeezed out if J.J. Wilcox is moving to the bench.
April 28-30 - This Little Thing Called "The Draft"
We'll have such a better sense of what Dallas' needs are after free agency. Those pining for Jalen Ramsey today will move on if Dallas signs Eric Berry and Josh Norman. Bringing back Hardy would likely rule out Joey Bosa. And if RG3 does wind up a Cowboy, wouldn't that suggest they may not take a quarterback at number four?
It promises to be a fun offseason. Dallas has a lot of moving parts and, thankfully, the financial flexibility to cover their bases and even upgrade from last season. Will the disastrous 2015 season push Jerry Jones into making some more desperate moves than in recent years? Will he stay the course with Jason Garrett's patience and process? Time will tell.
Dallas Cowboys to Re-Sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for 2018
Continuity is the key to good special teams play in the NFL. Already losing long-time Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia to the Raiders - who promptly snatched ST aces Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber in free agency - the Dallas Cowboys have announced their intentions to re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur for the 2018 season.
Returning on a one-year deal, the fan favorite Ladouceur will be back to do what he does best in cleanly executing almost every special teams snap for Chris Jones or Dan Bailey to handle.
Long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will re-sign with the Cowboys on Monday, according to sources, on a one-year deal. He will be in his 14th season with the franchise. Only Jason Witten, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Bill Bates and Mark Tuinei will have more years of... https://t.co/yTQbMYyrIv
While Jones has improved as the Cowboys' punter with each passing season, Kicker Dan Bailey actually enters 2018 as another question mark on this unit. With the general belief around the team being that Bailey will be just fine moving forward, the Cowboys will no longer have to worry about who handles long snaps next year either.
L.P. Ladouceur is back in the silver and blue, and in this moment, everything can be alright with the world.
Report: Raiders Sign Former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber
A Free Agency period filled with departures continued for the Dallas Cowboys today, as the Oakland Raiders have reportedly signed the now-former Cowboys LB Kyle Wilber.
The Raiders have signed LB Kyle Wilber: https://t.co/TaC6cqjval
Wilber has been with the Cowboys since 2012, and has played in all 16 games four of the past five seasons. Most of his time has come on special teams, but he did provide solid linebacker depth for the Cowboys since joining the team.
Dallas has now lost both Wilber and Anthony Hitchens, depleting their linebacker depth even further over the last couple weeks.
The Raiders have now signed two key special teams contributors for the Cowboys in Keith Smith and Kyle Wilber this offseason. Hopefully Dallas can replace these types of "replacement level" players throughout the rest of the offseason, especially during the NFL Draft.
Report: Cowboys Officially Release CB Orlando Scandrick
After requesting his release from the team just a few days ago, Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick has gotten his wish. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Scandrick has officially been cut by the Dallas Cowboys.
I'm told the #Cowboys have informed CB Orlando Scandrick he will be released, per source.
This move will reportedly save the Cowboys roughly $1.4M against the salary cap, as we hope they finally look to make some moves during the Free Agency period.
Scandrick's release comes after an offseason in which the Cowboys totally overhauled the back end of their defense, specifically their cornerbacks. With the emergence of young, promising players such as Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, and the health issues of the aging Scandrick, the move makes a lot of sense.
In fact, after the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round of last year's draft it was rumored the Cowboys were looking to move Scandrick for extra draft picks. Instead, one year later, they have cut him to save some cap room.
Orlando Scandrick should have a market to find a new team elsewhere, but his time in Dallas has now come to a close.
Want to help make Inside The Star better?
We’re collecting feedback from our readers about the site. It only takes <2 minutes to complete, and can be done from any device.
Don’t worry, your information will not be shared with anyone but me (Bryson T.).
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Should the Cowboys Restructure LB Sean Lee’s Contract?
NFL Draft1 week ago
Mauricio’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0: Cowboys Steal Defensive Talent
Dallas Cowboys4 days ago
Dallas Cowboys Have Missing Piece at Offensive Line
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Cowboys 2018 Free Agency: What’s Left Before Market Opens?
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Do the Dallas Cowboys Have Any Trade Assets?
Star Blog6 days ago
3 Former Penn State Alumni Cowboys Could Target in Free Agency
NFL Draft2 weeks ago
Familiar Faces Remain in the Fold for Cowboys Mock Drafts
Star Blog1 week ago
Cowboys Defense: Bigger Need at Safety or Defensive End?