At least some Dallas Cowboys fans can see clearly what should happen when free agency opens. Most Cowboys fans I speak with believe there will be some house-cleaning when the lockout is over and significant salary space will become available for the team to be aggressive in free agency.
The most interesting scenario -- and the one that is on top of the wish list -- is to go out and sign CB Nnamdi Asomugha from the Raiders and defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins from the Packers. Those two players would be key ingredients for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to turn a bend-don't-break defense of recent years in Dallas into an attacking package much like his brother, Rex, runs with the New York Jets.
Rex Ryan needs Darrelle Revis at corner to make his pressure package go and Jenkins was a critical piece to the Packers' pressure package. Asomugha could easily line up on the top receivers in the NFC and create "Nnamdi Island," which in turn will permit the safety on his side to be a blitzer, much like Jim Leonhard is in New York. If you study all the ways Dom Capers used Jenkins in the playoffs, you see a versatile athlete that can line up anywhere and be active in both two- and three-man fronts.
To make room for the two players, the Cowboys could part ways with cornerback Terence Newman, running back Marion Barber and offensive tackle Marc Colombo -- which would create close to $15 million of cap space (if, in fact, there even is a salary cap in 2011). Simply swapping out those contracts for the two new men would make good business sense. At any rate, Cowboys fans I speak to on my Sirius NFL Radio show believe these two steps would put Dallas right back in the race for the NFC title. I tend to agree.
Consider this, too: The Cowboys' draft last month set up well for the team to make these moves. Tackle Tyron Smith, the Cowboys' first-round pick (ninth overall), makes Colombo expendable and third-rounder DeMarco Murray does the same thing with Barber.
Dallas might also show some interest in an inexpensive safety to complete the project. Brodney Pool started the last eight games of the 2010 season for the Jets and had 44 tackles, a sack, six passes defended and an interception in Rex Ryan's defense. Michael Huff might come free after five years of service in Oakland, depending on the rules of free agency, and he played for Rob Ryan in Oakland from 2006-08 when he was in on 191 tackles, a sack and 17 passes defended.
The Cowboys have been quiet and conservative in the last two drafts, and when free agency returns it might be time for Dallas to infuse this defense and turn things around. I wrote a story soon after Rob Ryan was hired and broke down the changes Cowboy fans should expect; it is all about increased pressure. Without a few veteran additions, that pressure might not come to fruition.