When looking at the Cowboys roster, one thing becomes apparent. It is top heavy, with a lot of talent at the skill positions, but woefully lacking depth at many positions as well as strength in the trenches. For as much playmaking ability that the offense possesses, the defense has one playmaker – DeMarcus Ware, and a cast of players hoping to avoid being noticed. It will likely take at least two offseasons to fully correct the personnel problems on this team, but there are ways to help close the gaps a bit. One issue that the Cowboys will face is that a number of teams have huge cap surpluses that will allow them to win bidding wars for free agents over Dallas. The other is that the free agent class is not necessarily deep. The areas to focus on upgrading are as follows (in order of importance): 1. OLB – the Cowboys need more pass rush to take pressure off of Ware, and to make the defense more multi-dimensional. 2. OG/C – the offensive line is the only thing holding the offense back from being amongst the elite. 3. DL – too many non-athletic, non-playmakers in this group. Need to add explosive players to the mix. 4. CB – the secondary was lousy. Fixing the pass rush will help a lot. Still, an infusion of talent is necessary here. 5. ILB – not enough speed in this group. With James and Brooking likely to leave, not enough depth, either. Based off of who is already free, and the free agents that were Cowboys this past offseason, here’s one person’s view on steps that the Cowboys should make, including their 2012 foray into the NFL Draft: 2012 COWBOY FREE AGENTS TO LET GO QB Jon Kitna – enjoy retirement, Jon. CB Alan Ball – toast is burned less than Ball has been in Dallas LB Keith Brooking – was a very good LB for a long time, but he cannot run well enough to play anymore LB Bradie James – see above OG Montrae Holland – discipline on the team needs to improve, and retaining an average player who needed to go to a fat farm is not the way to follow through on it. OG Derrick Dockery – average player who is a progress stopper at best OG Daniel Loper – was regularly on the did not dress list RB Sammy Morris – soon to be 35 year old is a hold the fort option, nothing more CB Frank Walker – the very definition of a journeyman. Got worse as the season progressed. LB Anthony Spencer – the Cowboys need a more athletic, quick twitch option opposite Ware. WR Kevin Ogletree – one of the dumber players in Dallas, who never seems to know where to lineup. 2012 COWBOY FREE AGENTS TO RETAIN WR Laurent Robinson – became a solid playmaker and earned Tony Romo’s trust. However, if the contract is larger than 4 years, 14 million, he should be allowed to leave. TE Martellus Bennett – should not be brought back for anything other than a 1 or 2 year deal. S Abram Elam – another hold the fort guy, but a solid presence. Should have to compete for a job. P Mat McBriar – if his foot woes are in the past, a no brainer. Like Elam, should have to compete for his job. 2012 COWBOY PLAYERS UNDER CONTRACT TO RELEASE CB Terence Newman – quite possibly the worst player on a struggling defense last year. Need to get younger and cheaper here. DE Kenyon Coleman – a hold the fort player who understands Rob Ryan’s philosophy, but very physically limited. 2012 FREE AGENTS TO PURSUE OG/C Jeremy Zuttah – plenty of starting experience with Tampa, and only 25 years old. His positional flexibility makes him a must add. OG Jake Scott – veteran who is very similar to Kyle Kosier. At 31, will not be an expensive signing. DE Jason Jones – another young player with large upside that would add pass rush talent to the front. DE Kendall Langford – if Jones cannot be signed, this should be the target. CB Tracy Porter – smooth, playmaking corner who may end up a little cheaper price wise due to injury history. Eric Wright would be an alternative if cost prohibitive. 2012 Draft Picks 1. Dre Kirkpatrick CB Alabama – Adds size, cover skills, physicality and tackling ability to the secondary. 2. Whitney Mercilus – OLB Illinois – Will likely go higher than this, but his first step quickness will be a great complement to Ware’s rush from the weak side. Pick is based on thought that teams will write him off as a one year wonder. 3. Audie Cole – ILB – North Carolina State – strong competitor with the size to thrive in a 3-4. Will push Bruce Carter for time. 4. Michael Brewster – C Ohio St. – Will add competition for the center position, and can add depth at guard as well. 5. Eddie Whitley – FS Virginia Tech – solid tackler and great special teamer who has played both corner and safety. He will be able to learn behind Elam. 6. B.J. Cunningham – WR Michigan St. – not a need, but a pet cat of mine. The all time leading WR at MSU, and for a school that has produced Mark Ingram, Andre Rison, Derrick Mason and Charles Rogers (well, he was a beast at MSU), that’s saying something. 7. Donte Paige-Moss – OLB North Carolina – a gamble on greatness selection who won’t likely pay dividends until 2013. The hope here is that the team is more athletic, better at playmaking and has the ability to punch back when they take a shot. Much of this is unlikely, but it’s worth discussion. Flame away.