Priority #1 of the start of the 2011 league year was taken care of pretty quickly. Doug Free agreed to terms with the Cowboys late last night. There had to be a big sigh of relief with the Cowboys when Free agreed to remain with the team. Now the offensive line doesn't appear to be in complete disarray like it might have been if Free had gone elsewhere.
So Free will play left tackle and Tyron Smith will play right tackle. Andre Gurode will be back at center even though he'll need a little time to heal up before he is ready to participate in training camp. Both guard spots are a question mark. It looks like the Cowboys are working hard to get Kyle Kosier under contract. That would leave just the right guard spot open. The Cowboys are still considering bringing Leonard Davis back under a reduced contract. Montrae Holland is still with the team and is capable of starting if necessary. I expect Colombo to be cut now that Free is under contract.
Along with the guard position the focus has to be defensive end, safety, and wide receiver depth. There are young, unproven players on the roster at safety and wide receiver. But defensive end is in bad shape right now.
Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears and Stephen Bowen are all available in free agency and I expect at least one of them to return. The Cowboys have to find some help at defensive end because the cupboard is pretty bare at that position right now. There was some talk of the Cowboys going after Cullen Jenkins but it seems like he is out of their price range due to the salary cap.
At safety the Cowboys are in bad shape but at least there are some young guys on the roster who might be able to play. Barry Church showed some promise last year and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah didn't get a chance to play much last year due to injuries. I would hate to see Alan Ball back at safety again this year but at least he is a back up plan if all else fails. I think the Cowboys need to sign at least one free agent safety and maybe even two. I would like to see Barry Church get a real shot at the starting strong safety spot.
I'm a little concerned about the depth at wide receiver. We've seen flashes from Kevin Ogletree but not enough to believe with any certainty that he is ready to move up the depth chart. It is hard to imagine that Dwayne Harris (7th round pick, East Carolina) will be ready to be on the field regularly early in the season. And Manny Johnson, Teddy Williams and Jesse Holley have done next to nothing in their time with the team. Stephen Jones indicated that wide receiver is not a priority right now but I don't see how the Cowboys don't at least bring back Sam Hurd to add depth.
The good news is that Free will be back. It would have been scary to have two unproven players manning the offensive tackle positions. The offensive line has got to do a better job protecting Romo this season. With Free and Tyron Smith on the outside the Cowboys are off to a good start in building a new offensive line. There is still a lot of work to do to get a contending team put together for 2011.