Things are going to get absolutely crazy across the league next week. And for the Cowboys there is a lot of work to be done in a very short amount of time. Let's look at the priorities for the Cowboys heading into the shortest free agency signing period in the history of the NFL.
Priority #1 - Get Doug Free signed. I list this as the top priority because accomplishing the goal of locking Free into a long term deal not only helps shape the salary cap picture but it also impacts whether Marc Colombo can stay or go. If Free somehow ends up with another team the Cowboys will be forced to hold onto Colombo and start Tyron Smith at left tackle.
Priority #2 - Identify what dead weight is going to be cut from the roster to save salary cap space. There are some easy picks here. I know getting Free signed is the top priority for Jerry and Stephen Jones. So Colombo will be gone which will save the Cowboys $1.9 million in base salary and a $2.6 million option bonus. Cutting Barber saves $4 million on the cap and they Cowboys need to get rid of one of their backs anyway after drafting DeMarco Murray.
Priority #3 - Restructure some of the big money players to save cap space. Tony Romo, Demarcus Ware, Terence Newman and Miles Austin are all prime candidates for contract restructuring. I would love to see the Cowboys find a way to restructure Roy Williams' deal to make his cap number lower this season without making it impossible to cut him again next year. Leonard Davis is another prime candidate for contract restructuring.
Priority #4 - It looks like all teams will get 3 days to deal exclusively with their own free agents. The Cowboys need to resign Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen and Kyle Kosier. I would love to see the Cowboys upgrade the offensive line but the lockout is going to prevent that this season. With very limited offseason work in the offense it is hard to imagine any of the young players progressing to the point that they can start the year at left guard. Bringing Kosier back is the safe option and they can buy another year of development. David Arkin was drafted to be a starter but he won't be ready this season. The Cowboys can't afford to go into the short free agent period needing two starting safeties. Hopefully Sensabaugh isn't trying to break the bank with his new deal. The Cowboys are in bad shape at defensive end if they don't resign at least one and hopefully two of their soon to be free agent ends (Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears, Stephen Bowen)
Priority #5 - This is the beginning of open free agency. I seriously doubt the Cowboys will cut Newman and make a run at Nnamdi Asomugha. There won't be the cap space available to go after a high priced guy like that. The #1 priority should be finding a free safety. The Cowboys can't afford wait another year with Alan Ball as the only other starting option. There have been a lot of names thrown around as targets in free agency at safety. I'll be happy with anyone back there who isn't named Alan Ball.
Priority #6 - Depth, depth, depth. The Cowboys need more depth at cornerback, linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver. They need to find quality depth at as many positions as possible. Obviously some of the rookies will be providing depth at some spots but you never know what you have from your draft picks until you get them on the field.
It is going to be a wild and fun week of free agency starting hopefully on Monday. The Cowboys have plenty of work to do to keep things interesting for Dallas fans.