There aren't many teams in the NFL that can boast a better starting wide receiver pair than the Cowboys have in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
Both have the size, athleticism and hands to make them a number one target on a good offensive team and Tony Romo's return to action should be a lot smoother with these two guys running out under his passes. It says a lot, then, that the team's overall depth at wide receiver would rank somewhere in the bottom half of the league.
That's what you get when the rest of the depth chart has names like Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley and Manuel Johnson. One of these young guys might be able to step up and make a difference given an increase in playing time, but it is an awfully big risk to take for a team that played three-wide almost half the time in 2010.
The risk is magnified by the fact that the team plans to use Bryant in the kick return game again this season. There's nothing wrong with that choice as Bryant is a dynamo in the role, but the chances of injury go up and the chance that one of the youngsters will be pressed into a starting role. Better to deal with that possibility now and protect yourself than scramble later.
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The best option on the free agent market slipped away on Thursday when Jerricho Cotchery agreed to a one-year deal with the Steelers. The former Jet would have fit well in the slot as a safety valve for Romo and insurance against an injury to a starter.
There are several veteran options still available on the free agent market, some of whom would upgrade the unit now while giving one of the youngsters a chance to grow into the role instead of having it forced upon them in Week One. The team could also wait until players start getting cut, although that would be an extension of the earlier risk instead of the hedge provided by signing someone now. Once you see the list of available players, there's a good chance you'd recommend taking that risk.
Randy Moss - Yes, we know he announced his retirement, but we also know that he's always wanted to be a Cowboy. That's why he always showed up huge when they were on the other side of the field, something that wasn't guaranteed against other teams. Given his issues with motivation and a greater need for a possession type receiver, the team should look elsewhere.
Bryant Johnson - A first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2003, Johnson never developed into more than a complementary option in three NFL stops. That's just what the Cowboys need, though, and, unlike the last receiver they brought in from the Lions, Johnson won't cost much.
Terrell Owens - Just kidding.
Mark Clayton - Clayton looked great for the Rams before going down with a knee injury after four games. His knee probably won't be ready to start the season and the Rams remain interested in bringing him back, a double whammy that makes Clayton an unlikely choice for the Cowboys.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - Housh hasn't done himself any favors by washing out of Seattle and Baltimore after just one season with each club. He had his worst season in 2010 and his advancing age makes him a poor bet to return to the form he flashed with the Bengals. Working the underneath routes alongside Austin and Bryant would be a good use of whatever skills he has left, which makes him the best choice on this list. That's not saying all that much, however.
Hank Baskett - Just in case you had a desire to see the Cowboys on another reality show.
Kevin Curtis - Might not have anything left in the tank at 33, but it would be worth a look during a workout. A longtime Eagle, Curtis came back from testicular cancer last year to play for the Dolphins briefly and then signed with the Chiefs in the week leading up to their playoff loss to the Ravens. Curtis started that game, which says a lot about K.C.'s receivers but a little bit about his ability to step right into an offense.