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Jason Hatcher to leave Dallas Cowboys for free agency?

The Dallas Cowboys' Jay Ratliff boondoggle might end up costing more than the $18 million they threw down the drain in his 2011 contract extension.

While the Cowboys were tossing checks in the direction of a washed-up Ratliff, they also allowed one of their best players to enter a contract year without an extension of his own.

According to NFL Media's Desmond Purnell, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher made it clear Tuesday that he plans to test his value on the free agent market in the offseason.

Had Ratliff been healthy, the Cowboys would have wasted Hatcher's pass rushing ability at nose tackle instead of the three-technique, in which he has excelled with a career-high nine sacks in 11 games.

In fact, Hatcher hinted Tuesday that he might not be in Dallas right now had the team switched his position.

"Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. I'm not a nose tackle," Hatcher said, via ESPNDallas.com. "I probably would've been asking to be traded or something because I don't like to play the nose. I'm not going to say I'm glad (Ratliff) is gone because I wish we had him because he's a helluva football player, but God works in mysterious ways and I'm at the position. I'm making plays and having a helluva year, so I've got to keep it up."

The Cowboys are in a tight spot regarding Hatcher's future. He's been a legitimate Defensive Player of the Year candidate for the majority of this season. At the very least, he's shown Pro Bowl form. Cowboys Executive Vice President Stephen Jones recently acknowledged that Hatcher has outplayed a three-year, $6 million contract signed in 2011.

On the other hand, Hatcher will turn 32 years old before the start of the 2014 season. It sounds like he's intent on proving he's the best three-technique in the league before he breaks the bank on the open market.

The Cowboys' history of overpaying for their own talent suggests Hatcher will receive an offer he can't refuse, even if they're currently projected to be $31 million over the 2014 salary cap.

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