Top 10 Cowboys storylines this offseason

Defensive end DeMarcus Ware

If you follow the Dallas Cowboys you already know there’s never a shortage of storylines. The Cowboys’ season ended less than three months ago and they’ve already had coaching staff changes, a top defender heading to a division rival and two faces of their franchise getting released. Don’t worry if you missed out on any of the big news, we have you covered. Here are the top 10 Cowboys storylines of the off-season.

1.) DeMarcus Ware signed with Denver. It’s never easy to see a future Ring of Honor member head to another team. It’s even worse when they still have some tread left on their tires. The Cowboys wanted Ware to take a pay cut. He declined. They cut him. He signed with a Super Bowl front-runner.

2.) Jason Hatcher signed with Washington. Hatcher made no secrets about his intent on going to the highest bidder when his contract was up. He kept his word. And went to a division rival. Hatcher had his best season in a 4-3 defense. It should be interesting to see how he produces going back to a 3-4. Interesting note: Eight of Hatcher’s team-high 11 sacks came against NFC East foes. Guess it makes sense to stay in the division.

3.) Cowboys signed Henry Melton. The Cowboys desperately needed this signing. Without Melton, a defense that finished last in the league appeared to be headed for an even worse season. With Melton, the Cowboys have a potential Pro Bowler at a very important position in Rod Marinelli’s defense.

4.) Cowboys promoted Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator. As I just mentioned, it’s Marinelli’s defense now. Monte Kiffin has been moved to “assistant head coach/defense.” Will the results be any better? Well, they can’t be much worse.

5.) Cowboys hired Scott Linehan. The former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator is now calling the Cowboys’ offensive plays. The Cowboys ran a pass-heavy offense under Jason Garrett. Linehan ran a pass-happy offense in Detroit. It doesn’t sound like much has changed.

6.) Cowboys released Miles Austin. He had a pretty good run for about four seasons, but Austin’s time in Dallas ran out largely because he couldn’t stay healthy. Austin, 29, missed five games in 2013 and he failed to catch a touchdown for the first time in six seasons.

7.) Tony Romo traveled to Duke. At first, it appeared that Tony Romo and Jason Garrett were at Duke University to take in Mike Krzyzewski’s basketball program and shoot a few jumpers. It turns out that Romo was there to meet with Duke football coach David Cutcliffe. The QB guru worked with Peyton Manning when he was rehabbing from neck surgery. It appears he could be doing the same with Romo, who had back surgery in December. Romo is projected to be ready to go for OTAs.

8.) Cowboys signed Mincey and McClain. A day after releasing DeMarcus Ware, the Cowboys agreed to terms with defensive tackle Terrell McClain and defensive end Jeremy Mincey. Both have been rotational players during the majority of their careers. If the season started tomorrow, McClain, 25, would likely be in the starting lineup. Mincey, 30, would likely be a reserve.

9.) Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden. There’s no guarantee that Kyle Orton plays another season in the NFL. He might choose retirement. If so, the Cowboys have a backup plan at backup quarterback. Weeden wasn’t very good during his time with the Cleveland Browns, but he’s only two seasons removed from being a first-round pick. And the Cowboys didn’t pay much. Weeden is due to make $570,000 in 2014 and $660,000 in 2015.

10.) Dan Bailey signed a contract extension. You need a reliable kicker and Bailey is one of the best options in the league. Bailey, 26, signed a seven-year contract extension in January. The undrafted free agent in 2011 has made 89-of-98 field-goal attempts and he’s perfect on his 123 extra-point attempts.

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