The Cowboys have five starters expected to be free agents of some sort once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. Left tackle Doug Free will return. They placed the highest tender on him, an offer that would pay him $3.5 million in 2011. He will sign a long-term deal at some point, just as Miles Austin did last September. Defensive end Marcus Spears isn't expected back. The Cowboys gave safety Alan Ball the original-round tender, $1.4 million, which means a team would have to give up a seventh-round pick in return.
That leaves safety Gerald Sensabaugh and guard Kyle Kosier.
Owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett said this week that they hope to re-sign both Sensabaugh and Kosier.
"They are good players that can help us win next year," Jones said to reporters, including the Star-Telegram's Clarence Hill, in New Orleans at the NFL owners meetings. "That is what we are looking for."
The Cowboys, who already have an NFL-high $137.4 million committed toward the 2011 salary cap, didn't go after one of the big-name safeties on the market in February. They passed on O.J. Atogwe and Bob Sanders.
Sensabaugh played well late in the season and ended up with five interceptions and nine pass breakups. He might have been the team's most consistent player in the secondary, which isn't saying much considering the Cowboys ranked 26th against the pass.
"We’re still in the process of pursuing all of the personnel options," Garrett said at the owners meetings. "Again, it’s a different kind of an off-season. We have a great feeling, a very positive feeling for Gerald Sensabaugh. He’s been a very good football player for us the last couple of years. We like him. Free agency is part of this league, and as we go forward, we’ll see what the rules are in terms of free agency and salary cap and those kinds of things. But we like him a lot, and we want him on our football team."
Sensabaugh made $815,000 last season, while Kosier made $3 million. Kosier turns 33 in November and was slowed by a knee injury at the start of last season.
-- Charean Williams