Players Under Contract
Tyrone Crawford - Signed through 2015 - Dead Money Hit: $288,000
The Cowboys had high hopes for Tyrone Crawford entering last season and were dealt a huge blow day one of training camp as he tore his achilles. Particularly when the Jay Ratliff situation deteriorated as it did, Crawford would have had a chance to shine. Barry Church rebounded nicely from a defensive back position with this same injury, if the staff can have similar success, Crawford can provide a much needed boost to this unit. He has the size and motor to be a headache for offenses particularly as an inside rusher.
Nick Hayden - Signed through 2014 - Dead Money Hit: None
Hayden was a solid pickups in the mold of George Selvie where the Cowboys signed him up on a two year deal. Hayden unexpectedly was asked to start a majority of the season, ideally he would be a nice 3rd or 4th option to fill out a rotation. If the Cowboys can add a quality starter or two, Hayden would be a nice piece to the rotation that is already in place.
Frank Kearse - Signed through 2015 - Dead Money Hit: None
Kearse was added the final month or so of the season to provide a big body to help the run defense. The Cowboys scheme rely on quicker one gap players along the defensive line, Kearse probably doesn't fit that mold, it's very possible with this group that Kearse may be the odd man out and that could be a sure sign they got better.
Jason Hatcher - Unrestriced
Hatcher had a breakout season after 7 years in the league, it's better late than never. Hatcher not only earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, but he also has some leadership qualities that the Cowboys would hate to lose. At 32 years old, it will be hard for the Cowboys to justify a long term deal that they may need to make to compete in free agency.
Direction for the position
Defensive tackle is arguably the number one need for the Cowboys as they head into the offseason. They currently lack the shear numbers required for training camp and half of the group was signed from the bargain bin during the season. If the Cowboys hope to improve, at least one of those players should not be back next year. This is a position where the Cowboys could justify both a free agent and draft choice.
Free agency would offer a few option, one of which being simply resigning Jason Hatcher, but Chicago Bears' Henry Melton, has Texas ties as well as ties to newly named Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli. Another cheap option could be Atlanta Falcon Corey Peters, who will only be 26 years old when the seaosn starts, but has plenty of starts under his belt and solid production with a five sack season last year.
This year's draft is pretty deep as well, the early fan favorite being Pitt's Aaron Donald and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan leading the pack as three tehnique prospects. Or the Cowboys could gamble a bit on Minnesota's Ra'shede Hageman has impressive measurables that Marinelli can tap into or the medical red flag on Dominique Easley could give them steals in the 2nd round.