Prior to the opening of the free agency period, Fooch took a look at the San Francisco 49ers' 13 opponents for next season and gave a short preview of free agency and what was likely to happen. Now that free agency is essentially a thing of the past, we're going to revisit all 13 teams prior to the 2016 NFL Draft.
We'll be starting with the Dallas Cowboys, the hated non-divisional rival who will always remain a mortal enemy of the 49ers. If you post here on Niners Nation and you don't hate the Cowboys and most of their fans (aside from the fine, fine folks over at Blogging The Boys, a quality SB Nation product #sponsoredpost #kickbacks), then you should just go away because Fooch is on vacation and I'm fixin' to do some restructuring.
Anyway, the Cowboys suck. But the 49ers also suck, let's not forget, and said 49ers will play said Cowboys at some point next season. That means that what happens with their roster and coaching staff is actually important to us here at Niners Nation.
Coming into the offseason, the Cowboys had needs at backup quarterback, linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver. There were other needs, but those were the most pressing. Their biggest pending free agents are listed below:
LB Rolando McClain
DE Greg Hardy
DE Jeremy Mincey
CB Morris Claiborne
DT Nick Hayden
RB Lance Dunbar
Free agency recap
There were other free agents, but other than Jeff Heath, a restricted free agent who was tendered by the team, there was not much else. Fortunately for the Cowboys, it wasn't a high-impact group overall outside of McClain, who has successfully rejuvenated his career with the team.
The Cowboys made some good moves right out of the gate, re-signing McClain, Claiborne and Dunbar to new deals. McClain is still just 27 years old and while he didn't look as good last season as he did the year before, the Cowboys are giving him more time to grow. Claiborne is an oft-injured cornerback who was once considered one of the best cornerback prospects in years, so it's good to bring him back on a cheap one-year deal.
Dunbar is a versatile offensive weapon that the 49ers were interested in acquiring, but he also returns to the team. The notable names on that list that still remain are Hardy, Hayden and Mincey. The latter two are reliable veterans that the Cowboys made some moves to replace by signing Cedric Thornton and Benson Mayowa, so if they go elsewhere it's not a big deal.
Hardy is an interesting case in that he's a literal piece of human garbage who doesn't deserve to be in the NFL and thankfully, he didn't play well last season and hopefully will still remain out of a job for 2016. Yeah, tell you how I really feel, right? But realistically, Hardy's loss hurts the Cowboys from a pass-rush perspective and have done nothing thus far to address it.
They also brought in veteran back Alfred Morris to kick the tires on him and in my opinion, it's one of the more underrated signings of the offseason. I think Morris has more to offer and I think he'll succeed if given a chance in Dallas. I would expect Morris to rise up the depth chart quickly next season, provided he stays healthy.
Needs heading into the NFL Draft
Again, the Cowboys didn't address the loss of Hardy, and will likely look to add a pass rusher in the NFL Draft. But aside from that, the biggest needs are still cornerback, wide receiver and backup quarterback.
Orlando Scandrick is a solid starter at cornerback, but lost amid all the news about Tony Romo and Dez Bryant getting hurt is the fact that Scandrick was also lost for the season. There's a ray of hope in Claiborne, but the Cowboys still need a starter opposite him, otherwise I like the 49ers chances even with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, to do some damage. The lack of high-tier safeties also helps.
Speaking of Bryant and Romo, the Cowboys really could use a starting wide receiver opposite Bryant and they desperately need a quarterback they can be confident in behind Romo. Bryant's recovery is on track, but after playing in just nine games last season, the Cowboys receivers mostly stuck up the joint. Terrance Williams, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley were the team's top receivers last season.
And Romo ... well, when he went down the Cowboys cycled between Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore and Brandon Weeden, a group of three quarterbacks that almost makes me happy the 49ers have Blaine Gabbert. Romo has sustained significant ribs, back, shoulder and clavicle injuries throughout his career and if the Cowboys can find both a reliable backup and a potential Romo replacement down the line early in the draft, they'll be in good shape.