Now that the pain of watching yet another Super Bowl without the Cowboys is finally over it is time to focus on next season. The Cowboys have some obvious holes to fill in the roster at free safety and on the offensive line. Here is a quick rundown of the roster position by position along with players who are set to become free agents this offseason. I looking at the offense in this post and I'll focus on the defense in my next post. Obviously a lot of the offseason moves are going to depend on the CBA negotiations and timing, but I'm going under the assumption that things will get worked out sooner than later.
Quarterback (Tony Romo, Jon Kitna, Stephen McGee) - It think the Cowboys are set here. Romo is the franchise quarterback. Kitna proved his worth as a capable backup this season and McGee did enough in his time on the field at the end of the year to prove he deserves to stick around for more development.
Running Back (Felix Jones, Marion Barber, Tashard Choice) - All signs are seem to indicate that Barber will be sent packing this offseason. You get the feeling that Jason Garrett has run out of patience with Barber and is ready to roll with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice as his 1-2 punch. That makes running back a position of need heading into the draft. I don't see the Cowboys targeting a running back in free agency when it is easy to find a good running back deep into the draft.
Fullback (Chris Gronkowski) - I don't think Gronkowski did nearly enough this season to warrant a guaranteed spot on the team next season. He missed the block that ended Romo's season and he had a hand in the kick return that ended Dez Bryant's year. I think the Cowboys will upgrade at fullback if they can find the right guy at the right price or a good player in the draft.
Wide Receiver (Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, Sam Hurd, Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, Manny Johnson, Teddy Williams) - The two guys at the top of the depth chart, Austin and Bryant, will obviously be back. Roy Williams is another story. I actually thought he was much better this season and I would like to see him back on the team next season. I just don't see Jerry Jones cutting him and admitting a monumental mistake in trading for Roy a few years ago. Sam Hurd will be a free agent and I think the Cowboys will let him test the free agent market. Ogletree still has potential but he regressed from his rookie year. The rest of the guys are special teamers at best so it is all a numbers game for them. There will probably be a battle in training camp for the 5th spot between Holley, Johnson and Williams. I just can't imagine the Cowboys seeing wide receiver as a position of need at this point.
Tight End (Jason Witten, Martellus Bennett, John Phillips) - Witten is an all time great. But Martellus might just lose his #2 spot to Phillips this season. Phillips was emerging as quite a player in the preseason before his season ended with a knee injury. What gives Martellus value is his exceptional blocking ability. It should be a good battle between Marty B. and Phillips this offseason for the #2 spot. Martellus did seem to welcome rumors of possibly being traded so maybe he wants out. Bennett's contract is up after the upcoming season so if the Cowboys want to get anything before he leaves they need to pull the trigger on a trade this offseason. If Martellus stays then tight end is set. If he goes then look for the Cowboys to target a tight end late in the draft or sign an inexpensive tight end in free agency.
Tackle (Doug Free, Marc Colombo, Alex Barron, Robert Brewster, Sam Young, Pat McQuistan) - Doug Free will become a free agent at the start of the new league year. You can bet he is one of the top priorities this offseason for the Cowboys. He'll be back. Barron will be a free agent and I'm sure the Cowboys will let him leave. Marc Colombo has a couple of years left on his contract but the Cowboys will think long and hard about whether they can count on him next season. I think they'll look around in free agency and the draft for a replacement but he might stick around one more season while Sam Young gets more time to develop. There is a lot of talk that Young may be the long term answer at right tackle. Brewster is in a put up or shut up season but he looks like a career backup at best. McQuistan is a free agent and I'm sure he'll be gone.
Guard (Leonard Davis, Kyle Kosier, Montrae Holland, Phil Costa) - Kosier will be a free agent and I'm sure the Cowboys will let him test the market. They'll bring him back but only at the right price. Leonard Davis regressed this season but he'll be back. Costa showed a lot of promise and can play guard and center so he'll be around for a few years at least. Holland has one more year left on his contract and has shown he is a good injury replacement at left guard. The Cowboys will look to upgrade at left guard in free agency or the draft but I think Davis sticks around at right guard.
Center (Andre Gurode, Phil Costa) - the Cowboys look set at center with Gurode. He managed to make the pro bowl although it seemed like it was based more on reputation than his play this season. The Cowboys need to start looking for a long term solution to replace Gurode since he is now 32 and will be 34 when his current contract expires. I expect the Cowboys to draft a center this year or next to groom behind Gurode unless they see Costa as a long term solution.