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Cowboys Free Agency: Go Big or Go Home

Monday’s celebration turned into Tuesday’s doom as many players across the league were told that their services were no longer needed with their current team. For the Cowboys, that means that it is the end of the road for Marion Barber, Roy Williams, Leonard Davis and Kris Brown.

While many forgot that Brown was even on the roster, the others were not a huge surprise to those of us that were paying attention to this team over the past year, with the possible exception of Williams due to the value given up to acquire him only three short years ago.

The moves free up around $16 million in cap space for the Cowboys, who were already over the cap, but if they aren’t done cutting ties (and by all indications, they are not done), and if they could restructure the contracts of such veterans of Tony Romo, Miles Austin and DeMarcus Ware, and with the allowance this year to borrow money off future caps for this year…the Cowboys will have some room to improve their roster.

What to do with that new found money?

Sign Doug Free.

No, he’s not going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated any time soon, but Free graded as one of the best left tackles in the game last year and we all know that left tackle isn’t very far behind quarterback when it comes to most important positions on the field. When you find a left tackle, you keep him.

It might be easier said than done, however, as reports surfaced Tuesday night that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in on Free as well. The Bucs are $59 million under the cap, and have to spend $47 million just to get to the league-mandated salary cap minimum. If you have that much money to spend, why not protect young quarterback Josh Freeman with a 27 year-old up and comer at an important position?

The threat from the Bucs is very real, and the Cowboys should be very concerned.

However, if Free decides he likes being a Cowboy, and then the Cowboys have the ability to cut Marc Colombo and save another $2.5 million, and then have the ability to sign another big gun…

Go after Nnamdi Asomugha.

First of all, I just learned how to spell his name, so that would be a real waste of my time if he went to another team, but more importantly, good defenses are made by star players.

The Ravens had the best defense in the league last year, led by Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. Pittsburgh had James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. The Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers had Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk and Charles Woodson playing at a high level.

Go up and down the defensive depth charts of the top defenses year after year, and most of the time they aren’t comprised of journeyman types, they’re made up of top echelon talent complimented by useful resources at other positions.

Sign Asomugha and DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer instantly become better pass rushers. Mike Jenkins gets help at the other corner spot from a safety rotating over to help him while Nnamdi patrols his side of the field.

Sign Asomugha and receiver targets in your division like DeSean Jackson and Hakeem Nicks become neutralized. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has the freedom to be the aggressive coordinator he loves to be because he knows he has a true shutdown corner out there. The defense would have a swagger again, a swagger that hasn’t been seen in Dallas in quite some time.

Now I fully understand that signing Asomugha downgrades your ability to shore up badly needed positions such as defensive end and safety. But again, are the Cowboys better off with Asomugha, Jenkins and two somewhat reliable safeties, or are they better with Terrence Newman, Jenkins, one adequate safety and one somewhat reliable safety?

Okay, they might be screwed either way, but you have the best shot at being a top defense with a playmaker like Asomugha on the edge than you do with a bunch of guys and DeMarcus Ware.

The other downside to signing Asomugha is that he is 30 years old. I would argue that with Tony Romo turning 31 in April and the next quarterback probably not on this roster (sit down Stephen McGee), the window for this team contending for a championship could be very short-lived, and you worry about his impact on the salary cap and diminished performance three years down the line. And besides, I think several teams have shown that you can rid yourselves of bad contracts at any point (Roy Williams).

Of course it might not even be an option. News reports on Tuesday night said that the Jets were already talking to Asomugha, and that his interest in the Jets was high. The aforementioned Buccaneers could sign a couple of Asomughas if they wanted to. The Cowboys might not even be able to free up the money to sign him after taking care of Free.

But until Madden 2012 comes out, this is our chance to be a NFL GM and I say if you’re going to go for anybody, you might as well go sign the best guy available at a need position on the side of the ball you need the most help.

UPDATE: And in what should be commonplace in the next few days in that my piece is rendered useless while in the process of writing it, ESPN's Adam Schefter the Cowboys have made the Free move a moot point by signing the left tackle to a four-year, $32 million deal with $17 million in guaranteed money.