With free agency fast approaching, the Cowboys will have several avenues available to them, despite being in the tightest salary cap situation in recent years. Though their cap number will severely limit their pursuit of any big time free agents, there are still handful of names that would make a great deal of sense for the Cowboys when free agency finally gets underway. If they can find a few new additions via free agency, it will really enhance their ability to take the “best player available” approach in the draft. So let’s look at a few names that the ‘Boys could pursue when the market opens.
Any free agent from the Chicago Bears defense
I have to imagine that there are several players from Chicago’s defense that will not be returning in 2013. Additionally, I think most of those players that will be available from Rod Marinelli’s defensive unit in 2012 could come at a reasonable price, with their former defensive coordinator now in charge of the Dallas Cowboys defensive line.
With that being said, obviously the big ticket name from Chicago’s defense is Henry Melton. Though highly unlikely, if the Cowboys could find some way to bring Melton to Dallas, the interior defensive line could be solidified quickly. Because Melton is guaranteed a monster deal somewhere, I don’t think it is realistic for him to land in Dallas; however, with the Rod Marinelli connection, anything is possible.
Several other names that could be interested and easily lured to the Cowboys include Israel Idonije, Nick Roach, and D.J. Moore. Idonije has been a solid and versatile member of the Bears defensive line for several years, and at 32 years old, he could be reunited with Marinelli at a decent bargain.
One interesting name to keep in mind is Brian Urlacher. Being at the tail end of his career, it is hard to see the Bears signing him back to any sort of lucrative deal. At the right price, I could see the Cowboys trying to bring him in to play a backup role behind Sean Lee. The Cowboys have had a bit of luck with bringing in iconic linebackers at the end of their careers before (Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking). The difference with Thomas and Brooking was that they were still expected to start and perform at a high level. With Lee the obvious starter at middle linebacker, it could make sense to have Urlacher as a backup and role player in different sub-packages.
Keep an eye on these names and others from the Chicago Bears defense; chances are, at least one of them will be courted by the Cowboys at the behest of Coach Marinelli.
Dwight Freeney, Defensive End – Indianapolis Colts
Fresh off of being informed that he would not be resigned today, Dwight Freeney will be looking for a new home in 2013. Freeney flourished in the Colts’ 4-3 scheme for years, mostly under Tony Dungy. But as the Colts started the transition to the 3-4 under Chuck Pagano in 2012, Freeney was left without a real spot in the scheme. Too small to play end in the 3-4, and without enough lateral quickness to play outside linebacker, Freeney will be looking to join a team that is running the scheme he flourished in. Who better than the Cowboys? With Anthony Spencer’s status uncertain, Freeney could slide into Spencer’s vacated end spot opposite Demarcus Ware. He may be a shadow of his former self, but if he is put back into his element at end in possibly a situational pass rushing role, he may still be able to produce some decent numbers for the Cowboys. Again, this is assuming that he can be signed to a bargain deal that makes sense. Also remember the Tony Dungy-Rod Marinelli-Monte Kiffin connection from Tampa Bay. Though Freeney has never played under Marinelli or Kiffin, it may be safe to assume that he is the prototypical player at his position that the two will covet for their unit in Dallas.
Leroy Hill, Outside Linebacker – Seattle Seahawks
We heard news this week about Monte Kiffin telling his players to study the way the Seattle Seahawks play their defense. It would seem to make some sense that he would welcome one of their former players to his unit in Dallas. Leroy Hill has had a decent career in Seattle as a linebacker, starting close to 100 games since 2005. Though his play has declined recently, he could be a decent addition to a Cowboys linebacking corps that is trying to find who to plug in at weakside linebacker. At age 30, it’s safe to assume Hill can probably be had for a bargain price. Also remember that Pete Carroll and Monte Kiffin have a past together, so it would not surprise me if Kiffin makes a few calls to Carroll regarding Hill or any other Seahawk defender that will be available in free agency.