Five Dallas Cowboys free agents that the team would be smart not to resign
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 let sign with another team.
DT Jason Hatcher
Let’s face it – Hatcher should be in the Pro Bowl later this month. He had a career year in 2012, notching 11 sacks. Without him, frankly, the Cowboys’ defensive line would have been borderline awful. With Jay Ratliff not ready to start the season, the Cowboys slid Hatcher into the under tackle role in the Cover 2 and he flourished. He played banged up for a good portion of the year and, except for a stretch in December where he seemed to slump, he was the most consistent part of the defense. But there are two big red flags. First, Hatcher had his career year in a contract year. Second, Hatcher is 32. The Cowboys are trapped under the weight of Ratliff’s dead money in 2014 (the leftover cap hit from Ratliff’s contract counts for nearly $7 million of the Cowboys’ estimated $23 million cap overage for 2014). That is thanks to a lucrative contract extension that the Cowboys signed Ratliff to when he turned 30. The Cowboys cannot afford to repeat the same mistake. Hatcher has made it clear he’s signing the contract from the highest bidder. The Cowboys should allow another team to make the mistake that Hatcher’s contract is likely to be.
DE Anthony Spencer
The Cowboys have used the franchise tag to keep Spencer each of the past two seasons, spending more than $20 million in base salary to keep him. In 2012 that contact paid off with Spencer’s best year to date. In 2013 it did not pay off, as Spencer played one half of one game before having microfracture surgery on his knee. The Cowboys should consider themselves fortunate that they’re not locked into Spencer long-term. Microfracture surgery is a tricky procedure. Spencer is nearly 30 and he’s never proven to be a consistent pass rusher. The Cowboys should do the wise thing and let him go, unless Spencer is willing to come back on a one-year deal with a big discount, say at least half of what he made in 2013.
S Danny McCray
The Cowboys tendered McCray as a restricted free agent in 2013. That tender was $1.3 million, which is way too much for a backup safety and special teams contributor. McCray signed the tender, but then agreed to a reduced contract of about $700,000. For that investment the Cowboys received eight special teams tackles. The Cowboys saw players like Dwayne Harris, J.J. Wilcox, Phillip Tanner and B.W. Webb emerge as consistent special teams contributors. The Cowboys can afford to let McCray go.
C/G Ryan Cook
Cook spent the bulk of the season on injured reserve. At age 30, there’s no place for him on this roster. The Cowboys are set at center and Cook doesn’t seem to be a viable competitor at guard. The Cowboys paid him $1.25 million last year, and they can probably get him back for less. But he’s nothing more than practice help at this point. Better for the Cowboys to draft a young guard and try to develop him as the heir to Mackenzy Bernadeau’s spot on the right side.
G Brandon Carter
The journeyman pro made no impact on the Cowboys in 2013. Sure he’d be cheap, but that’s about it.