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Given Cowboys' approach, get to know these free agents in 2017

IRVING, Texas -- Through the first week of free agency, the Dallas Cowboys have signed one unrestricted free agent: defensive tackle Cedric Thornton.

They have re-signed six of their own free agents: Rolando McClain, Morris Claiborne, James Hanna, Kyle Wilber, Charles Brown and Josh Thomas.

At some point -- perhaps as soon as today -- the Cowboys should/will/could sign another free agent from outside the organization.

Defensive end Chris Long was scheduled to visit, but he agreed to a deal with New England. Cornerback Leon Hall will visit. Undoubtedly, there will be other players coming through Valley Ranch as well.

But, as was pointed out Monday, the Cowboys like to sign their own more than going outside the building, so to speak, for help. They believe that gives them the best value rather than spending money on players they don’t know as well.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Cowboys’ unrestricted free agents in 2017.

Technically Travis Frederick won’t be a free agent next year with the Cowboys throwing the fifth-year option on the two-time Pro Bowl center in a matter of weeks. That doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t look to do a long-term deal with Frederick.

The Cowboys put the fifth-year option on left tackle Tyron Smith heading into the 2014 season and later signed him to a long-term deal that paid him $40 million guaranteed. The Cowboys could look to do the same with Frederick.

McClain and Claiborne will be free agents again. Could the Cowboys finally do a multiyear deal with McClain, their middle linebacker, after three straight one-year deals? They did that with safety Gerald Sensabaugh a few years ago. Claiborne is on a make-good deal this year and the Cowboys have been extremely patient with him. If he makes it through a full season and produces, keeping a young cornerback makes sense.

Terrance Williams, Gavin Escobar, J.J. Wilcox, Barry Church, Brice Butler, Andrew Gachkar Terrell McClain, Darren McFadden and Kellen Moore are set to be unrestricted free agents in 2017. So too are Ronald Leary and Jeff Heath, who have been tendered deals as restricted free agents this year.

Williams was unable to put up big numbers in Dez Bryant’s prolonged absence in 2015, but how much was because of the poor backup quarterback play? He needs a big year.

Escobar is likely to start the season on the physically unable to perform list because of a torn Achilles suffered late last season. The former second-round pick could look for a fresh start elsewhere.

Wilcox and Church were the no-doubt starters to enter the 2015 season but both have much to prove in 2016. Butler was picked up in a trade from the Oakland Raiders after Bryant suffered a broken foot and was unable to sustain any momentum early because of a hamstring strain.

Gachkar is a valuable backup and special teamer. When he’s been healthy, Terrell McClain has shown ability. He just hasn’t been on the field enough to show any consistency.

McFadden will turn 30 in 2017 and the Cowboys have been pretty clear on what they want to pay -- or not pay -- running backs the last two years. Moore could have the first crack at being Tony Romo’s backup in 2016 with how the Cowboys approached the position in free agency this year, but he is not a long-term solution.

For different reasons than Escobar, Leary could be looking for a fresh start in 2017 if a team is not willing to fork over a draft pick for him this season. Heath is a special teams’ ace and could be back in that role beyond 2016.

The angst that has been felt by some fans so far by the Cowboys’ approach to free agency is likely to be felt again based on the team’s recent history.

It might be best to remember the in-house names now.