FRISCO, Texas -- While it seems as if NFL free agency started eons ago, it is actually only entering its third week today.
While some have described the Dallas Cowboys’ free agency happenings so far as an exodus, they have actually lost nine players and signed six players. The debate should be whether the Cowboys are a better team today than they were in January. They are not, but they don’t play a real game until September and have plenty of time to make themselves a better team than they were in January.
That brings us back to free agency.
Using the ESPN list of the top 150 free agents as a guide, there are 34 players remaining unsigned, not including Tony Romo, who remains under contract with the Cowboys, and DeMarcus Ware and Jordan Cameron, who have announced their retirements.
To further whittle down the pool, the Cowboys’ needs are rather specific: defensive end, cornerback, safety, offensive line.
Of the 34 remaining, only 11 players potentially fit what the Cowboys are looking for.
Let’s take a look:
Alterraun Verner (No. 52) -- He is just 28 and received a big deal in 2014, but he had just four interceptions in three seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Having lost Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys could look to play more zone in 2017, and Verner is better suited to do so. He has missed only two games in his career.
Darrelle Revis (No. 67) -- The Cowboys have not shown a willingness to pay age, and Revis no longer owns his own island.
Tramon Williams (No. 77) -- He is 34, so use the same answer as for Revis. He took some turns as a safety for the Cleveland Browns, so maybe he could be a stopgap answer for the Cowboys. But he is 34.
T.J. McDonald (No. 27) -- Only Johnathan Hankins ranks higher on the unsigned list, at No. 25. Fans seem to ask this question every day. He has been productive. He is just 26. But is he a box safety or somebody who can cover sideline to sideline?
Rashad Johnson (No. 119) -- Jason Garrett was a fan of Johnson’s when he was coming out of Alabama. He is more of a spot starter and special teamer. The Cowboys visited with Robert Blanton earlier in the week, and he would be in the same sort of role.
Devin Taylor (No. 36) -- He put up 4.5 sacks for the Detroit Lions last year after putting up seven in 2015. He’s long and just 27, but is he better than what the Cowboys currently have in David Irving, Benson Mayowa, DeMarcus Lawrence or Tyrone Crawford?
Mario Williams (No. 129) -- He had a career-low 1.5 sacks last year and his desire to play the game is in question. That doesn’t sound like the kind of guy who would do well with Rod Marinelli as his position coach.
Chris Long (No. 130) -- He nearly chose to sign with the Cowboys last year before joining the New England Patriots. He was effective, but teams have to be careful to not wear him out at this point in his career.
Erik Walden (No. 140) -- The Cowboys actually drafted him in the sixth round in 2008, and he didn’t make the roster out of camp. He has hung around this long and had 11 sacks last year. The issue? He’s more of an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Ryan Clady (No. 78) -- With Doug Free’s retirement, the Cowboys are left with Chaz Green, who has played in four games in two seasons, as the starter, or they will move La’el Collins from left guard to right tackle. Clady is coming back from a rotator-cuff tear and needs to be managed at this point in his career.