Dan Bailey is a must when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys free agents to keep
By Matthew Postins
The first step for the Dallas Cowboys as they determine their roster for 2014 will be to see which free agents on their team they want to keep.
It won’t be easy. With the Cowboys reportedly about $23-24 million over the salary cap, depending on the source, the Cowboys not only need to clear that money, but also some maneuverability for rookie contracts and free agents.
Earlier this week we published the list of the Cowboys’ 2014 free agents. Below are the five players that the Cowboys would be smart to find a way to keep.
PK Dan Bailey (restricted free agent)
This guy has been money since the day he set foot on Valley Ranch. In just three seasons he is now the all-time leader in franchise history in game-winning field goals. He’s made 90 percent of his field goals and he has 50-yard plus range. Do you really want to take a chance on a kid coming out of college after watching Bailey? The good news is that Bailey is a restricted free agent, which greatly increases the Cowboys’ chances of keeping him. The restricted free agent tenders probably won’t be announced for another week. But last year’s tender amounts ranged from $1.323 million (for right of first refusal or original-round tender) to $2.879 million (first-round tender). By tendering Bailey an offer sheet, the Cowboys are getting the right of first refusal if another team offers Bailey a contract. If they tender Bailey at a first-round level, then they would get a first-round pick as compensation should Bailey receive another offer and the Cowboys decide not to match it. Kickers generally don’t make a whole lot of money in the NFL, but the Chicago Bears may have made things much harder to keep Bailey in Dallas long-term. Last week the Bears signed their kicker, Robbie Gould, to a contract extension worth $15 million, with $9 million guaranteed. Gould is one of the most consistent kickers in the NFL and his talent is comparable to Bailey’s. You can bet the Cowboys will tender Bailey. The bigger question is whether another NFL team will try to lure him away with a better offer. It will all depend on what type of tender the Cowboys offer.
LB Ernie Sims
He’s great veteran depth. No matter what Jerry Jones decides to do with the defense in 2014, Sims has proven he’s versatile and talented enough to handle it. Sims is creeping up there in terms of service years, as his base salary was $840,000 in 2013. But the Cowboys could wrap him up in a two-year deal spread the pain. If you saw how banged up the linebackers were by the end of the season, then you know why keeping Sims would be helpful.
DE Jarius Wynn
Wynn seemed like a good fit for this defense. He had a sack in the season finale against Philadelphia and he’s still on the young side at 27 years old. He’s entering his sixth year of NFL service, so cost isn’t a huge concern if you decide to do a one-year deal. The fact is the Cowboys need as many bodies as possible going into training camp, and it helps the Wynn knows the system. Jones told listeners of his radio show on Friday that he would stick with the 4-3.
G Brian Waters
If the 36-year old former Pro Bowler wants to come back and appears on his way to being healthy after injuring his triceps, the Cowboys should listen. It was clear in the short time that Waters was playing right guard that this offensive line as a whole responded to his play and his leadership. Mackenzy Bernadeau was not a huge step down, as he played better than he did in 2012. But if it’s about putting the best five guys on the field next season, Waters was one of the five. Along with the age, the money is a concern. It took $3 million to get Waters in-house, and that was after a month-long courtship during the preseason. Then there’s the injury. As of November Waters had not had surgery on the triceps and recovery takes about 4-5 months. Would the Cowboys be willing to commit money now in the hope that Waters is ready by July? I’m not sure the Cowboys have the maneuverability to do that, which is a shame because Waters’ influence on this line by mid-season was palpable, to say the least.
RB Phillip Tanner
Like Bailey, he’s a restricted free agent. But give that it would cost more than a million to keep Tanner on a tender offer, the more likely scenario is to not tender him, let him hit the market and see if he comes back to Valley Ranch. Then the Cowboys could re-sign him for the minimum. While Tanner was forgotten as a running back this year, he was one of the Cowboys’ better special teams performers.
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