The Dallas Cowboys will enter the NFL’s free agency Wednesday – the first day of the 2018 league year – with several key pieces of their depth chart in limbo.
The first domino to fall was DeMarcus Lawrence, the top player in the Cowboys' crop of free agents who tied for second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks last season, who will return on a $17 million franchise tag.
We’ll keep track of who’s signing and who’s leaving below:
A quick rundown:
- DeMarcus Lawrence, DE - Returning on franchise tag
- Allen Hurns, WR - Signing two-year deal with Cowboys
- Cam Fleming, OL - Former Patriot signed with Cowboys
- Deonte Thompson, WR - Signed with Cowboys
- Anthony Hitchens, LB - Signed with Kansas City Chiefs
- David Irving, DE - Returning to Cowboys on second-round tender
- Orlando Scandrick - Released, signed with Redskins
- Brian Price, DT - Returning to Cowboys on two-year deal
- Alfred Morris, RB
- Jonathan Cooper, OL - Signed with San Francisco 49ers
- Brice Butler, WR
- Kyle Wilber, LB - Signed with Oakland Raiders
- Joe Looney, OL - Re-signed with Cowboys
- L.P. Ladouceur, LS - Re-signed with Cowboys
- Byron Bell, OL
- Keith Smith, FB - Signed with Oakland Raiders
- Bene Benwikere, S - Signed with Arizona Cardinals
What it means
Lawrence will once again be the anchor of the Cowboys’ defensive line after a breakout 2017 campaign. The Cowboys had until March 6 to place the tag on Lawrence and did so on March 5, eliminating the possibility the Pro Bowler would field offers from other teams. He can still sign a longterm deal with Dallas this offseason.
Hurns comes to Dallas after being cut by the Jaguars this offseason, following four years with Jacksonville. He's a former 1,000-yard receiver with big-play ability, but he's been slowed by hamstring and ankle injuries the past two seasons.
The addition of Hurns reportedly is not meant as a replacement for Dez Bryant, whose status with the team has been the biggest storyline of the Cowboys' offseason.
In the wake of the major signing of Hurns came a batch of signings of depth pieces on the offensive line. Cameron Fleming has played 47 games over four seasons with the New England Patriots, seeing time at both guard and tackle positions. Center Marcus Martin also joins the Cowboys' O-line after three seasons with San Francisco between 2014-16. He didn't see game action in 2017 with the Browns.
Joe Looney, who is known more for his shenanigans than his on-field play, will also return to the Cowboys, where he's seen time at the center and guard positions.
Multiple media outlets reported on March 13 that Hitchens intends to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs on a deal worth $9 million per year.
The presumed loss of Hitchens ups the Cowboys’ need to find a linebacker in free agency or the draft. Sean Lee has missed 42 games over his eight-year NFL career and questions still surround Jaylon Smith after a rookie season that followed major surgery to repair a devastating knee injury suffered in his final collegiate game.
Price returns to the Cowboys after playing eight games at defensive tackle last year. He figures to be an insurance policy behind Maliek Collins in the middle, giving the Cowboys depth if they don't add a DT in the draft.
In an expected move, Irving will return to the Cowboys on a one-year, second-round tender worth $2.914 million. He can still negotiate with other teams but the Cowboys would be given the chance to match any offer.
Irving burst onto the scene at the end of the 2016 season, posting three sacks in two games at the end of the year. He served a four-game suspension at the start of the 2017 season after failing an offseason drug test, but recorded seven sacks in eight games before a concussion ended his season.
He figures to factor largely into the Cowboys' pass rush as the team figures out what it has in second-year defensive end Taco Charlton.
Smith appears to be headed to the Oakland Raiders. He posted a farewell to Cowboys fans on his Instagram page Thursday.
Don't even know where to start being that the last 4 years of my life have been spent wearing the Star on my helmet. But imma start by saying thank you to all the great fans of Dallas who supported me and my teammates through and through it was never taken for granted. I want to thank all of my teammates for the relationships built throughout my journey in Dallas through the ups and downs that locker room was a blessing to be apart of and I appreciate all the memories good and bad. I thank the Cowboys Organization The Jones family and all the coaching staff that helped guide me to this point in my career. Coach Gary Brown for helping me make the transition into the rest of my career at a new position and helping me put myself in a position to take care of my family and I. I thank the city of Dallas for accepting me and my time spent in the community and for always being kind. I leave with nothing but love and appreciation for the city of Dallas!... Thank you, Beef
A post shared by Keith Smith (@beef31) on
The loss of Wilber, the depth outside linebacker who's played 89 games in six seasons with Dallas, increases the team's need to acquire a linebacker in free agency or through the depth.
Ladouceur, the Cowboys' perfect player, will continue his long tenure with the special team's unit. He's never made a bad snap in 205 games as a Cowboy.
No, not that one. The 26-year-old linebacker became the first player from another team to sign with Dallas during 2018 free agency. The Cowboys were the last team in the league to make such an addition.
Thomas joins the Cowboys on a two-year deal after spending the last three with the Green Bay Packers. He met with the Cowboys early in the day on March 21 and signed with them later that day.
Thompson became the team's second free agency addition. He caught 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns last season, playing in 16 games between the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills.
He reportedly comes to Dallas on a 1-year, $2.5 million deal.
Even with the signing, the Cowboys will likely still be in search of a wide receiver in the draft.
Between free agency and the NFL Draft, the Cowboys will be in the market for help at left guard, linebacker and safety. Wide receiver Dez Bryant's future has been rumored to be in question as well, but the Cowboys did not sign either of the top free agents at the position.