Here are the moves the Dallas Cowboys should consider when free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Get ahead of the 2019 market: Since the Cowboys took care of their top priority last week by putting the franchise tag on defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, they have to sign Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin to an extension. Martin is set to play this season on the fifth-year option, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys should wait to get a deal done. The price will only go up next year for Martin, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons. He should be the highest-paid guard in the NFL, which would also make him the highest-paid offensive linemen on the Cowboys' roster. Without a new deal for Lawrence by mid-July, the Cowboys could find themselves losing Martin or Lawrence to free agency in 2019.
Find some speed on offense: If the Cowboys don’t get Dez Bryant to take a pay cut and release him, they should look at Sammy Watkins. Traded from the Buffalo Bills to the Los Angeles Rams prior to last season, he finished with 39 catches for 593 yards and eight touchdowns. As a former fourth overall pick, he might be something of a disappointment, but his best season came with new Cowboys receivers coach Sanjay Lal in Buffalo. He caught 60 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games. If the Cowboys part ways with Bryant, they will need to find a replacement and add a player in the draft. It might come down to cost, but Watkins could find all that he needs with the Cowboys.
Shore up the depth: Watkins could be well out of their price range, and the Cowboys have not shown a willingness to do big deals in free agency lately. They have taken a cost-effective approach to free agency, but that backfired when their signings either never made the roster or were gone by late October (Nolan Carroll, Damontre Moore, Stephen Paea and Robert Blanton). With Anthony Hitchens expected to get a large deal that they won’t be able to match, the Cowboys could use linebacker help. With Byron Jones moving to cornerback, safety is a top option. They need to find offensive line depth as well. The Cowboys have used free agency to fill gaps so they can enter the draft without any major needs. That has to remain a priority again, but they need to do more than just hunt for bargains.