With the beginning of NFL free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have a lot of important decisions to make. Following another 8-8 season, owner Jerry Jones is looking to get his team back to the playoffs.
Salary cap issues have already forced Dallas to release a few of the team's most prominent players. However, Dallas could be in play for some of the biggest stars on the market.
Below is an update on some of the best free agents that have been linked to Dallas.
After spending 13 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, the wide receiver is a free agent. Before Smith was released, he gave the Panthers a list of five potential destinations, in case Carolina was able to trade him. The Cowboys were on the list, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. At 34 years old, Smith might no longer be a Pro-Bowl caliber receiver, but he’d serve has a solid No.3 option, behind Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Smith caught 64 passes for 745 yards in 2013.
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Not only have the Cowboys released their best defender of the past decade, but he’s already signed with another team. Ware has agreed to a three-year deal with the Denver Broncos. Last year was Ware’s worst season with Dallas. In 13 games, he registered a career-low six sacks. The Cowboys saved $7.4 million against the salary cap by cutting the 31-year-old.
Austin is looking for a new home, after spending eight seasons in Dallas. The Cowboys saved $5.5 million against the cap by releasing the wide receiver. Following 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons in 2009 and 2010, Austin has struggled to stay healthy. He missed 11 games in the past three years, and registered just 244 receiving yards in 2013.
The defensive tackle was the first addition the Cowboys made of the 2014 free agency period. Dallas is McClain’s fourth different team in four seasons. He played in 16 games for the Houston Texans in 2013, compiling eight tackles.
With Ware gone, the Cowboys added some experience at defensive end in Mincey. The six-year veteran played 10 games with the Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, recording two sacks. He had his best year in 2011 when he recorded eight sacks.
Spencer played just one game last season, undergoing microfracture surgery in his left knee. Now, he’s a restricted free agent and visiting other teams. The Dallas Morning News reports that Spencer has a meeting with the Washington Redskins. The defensive end was given the franchise tag in 2013, after recording 11 sacks in 2012. He could still return to Dallas for the 2014 season.
A number of teams will be competing with the Cowboys to sign Hatcher. The defensive tackle is sought after by several clubs, after posting 11 sacks for Dallas. According to multiple reports, he’s received interest from the Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, and Oakland Raiders.