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March 27, 2013

Cowboys make roster moves, jump into free agency with signings of LB Justin Durant and S Will Allen

The Cowboys finally jumped into the NFL free-agent market with the signings of linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen on Wednesday.

Both players visited the team on Monday and took physicals. Both agreed to deals on Tuesday, but they couldn't be made official until the Cowboys cleared room under the salary cap.

The Cowboys had just $102,000 in space under the 2013 cap of $123 million heading into Wednesday. But that was before they restructured the contract of backup quarterback Kyle Orton and released wide receiver Anthony Armstrong to free up roughly $1 million.

The Cowboys have less than $25,000 in cap space now. But they accomplished their goal of getting Durant and Allen in the fold to give them some insurance at linebacker and safety, where the unproven likes of Kyle Wilber and Matt Johnson are at the top of the depth chart.

Durant will compete with Wilber, a 2012 fourth-round pick, for the starting job at strongside linebacker. The six-year veteran has 68 career starts with Jacksonville and Detroit. He had 14 starts last year in Detroit, recording 103 tackles.

Allen has largely been a backup in a nine-year career with the Buccaneers and Steelers with just 33 career starts. He has had seven starts the past three years in Pittsburgh, all coming as a injury replacement in 2012.

But Allen is an excellent special teams player who has a history with Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin dating back to their days together in Tampa Bay.

He knows the Tampa Two scheme and will give the Cowboys a veteran option if Johnson doesn't develop at free safety. The signing also doesn't preclude the Cowboys from still targeting a safety in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Johnson was picked in the fourth round last year but didn't play and rarely practiced because of a litany of injuries. The Cowboys, however, believe in his upside.

Orton is the latest Cowboys player to restructure his contract to help the team clear cap room, joining receiver Miles Austin, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, tight end Jason Witten, center Ryan Cook, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick.

Also released for cap purposes as Armstrong was were safety Gerald Sensabaugh, defensive end Marcus Spears and linebacker Dan Connor.

Clarence Hill





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