The NFL Combine is just a few days away and the Cowboys have some key decisions to make between now, and February 27 when free agency begins. Typically, we see a some of the top tier talent gobbled up during the first days of free agency. The Cowboys are going to let Chris Canty walk to Miami, and this move alone will have a domino effect on how we move in free agency and the NFL Draft. Here’s why:

Letting Canty walk was inevitable, not only was he just an ok player in my opinion, but his agent wants Tommy Kelly type money, that alone killed the chance of Canty staying in Dallas. This may just be an easy out for both parties though because Dallas wants to move in another direction there. Assumming Canty goes to Miami, there’s no way Parcells pays Canty that crazy amount of money, this whole notion of wanting a Kelly type contract is just a convenient cop out.

With Canty presumably gone, this means a move for Ratliff to defensive end could happen, which would in-turn mean Dallas would need to find a solid replacement at NT and that could mean someone in the draft. The downside to this scenario is th uncertainty of these moves. How effective would Ratliff be at DE, and how effective would the “new” NT be?

Another possibility is impending free agent, Igor Olshansky. Olshansky will be another top defensive end who will attract a lot of interest from 3-4 defenses. Dallas could be a very good place for Olshansky to land because of his ties with Wade Phillips. Olshansky flourished under Phillips and a reunion could be in the works. Signing Olshansky would really put this defense on track and give us some stability going into 2009 without question marks. In this scenario, Olshansky would man the DE spot and Ratliff could remain the boss at NT, and we could then shift our draft attention to another position of need.

I think what the Cowboys do for ILB and DE this free agency period will dictate our upcoming draft with our first selections. Will the Cowboys sign a DE like Olshansky, or do they go with the unknown by moving Ratliff and drafting a NT, if this is the case, will Jerry make his move to sign Ray Lewis to fill the ILB void?

Besides, the issues at ILB, and DE, we have the Miles Austin scenario to deal with.

The Cowboys have three logical things they can do with Austin: apply the 2nd round tender, 1st round tender, or give him a long term contract along the lines of Patrick Crayton. The Dolphins have already expressed interest in Miles Austin, and if Parcells is looking for a good receiver, and if they grade Austin higher than anything on their draft board in the 2nd round, then they could easily pull off this aquisition and not blink. If the Cowboys want to be certain of keeping Austin, they’ll apply the 1st round tender at the minimum.

Here at the RFA Tender amounts for 2009:

2nd round tender – right of first refusal & 2nd round pick – $1.545 million

1st round tender – right of first refusal & 1st round pick – $2.198 million

1st & 3rd round tender – right of first refusal & 1st and 3rd round picks – $2.792 million

I’m sure the braintrust at Valley Ranch have their handsful with all these scenarios atop their concerns. What to do with DE/NT/Ratliff, what to do with ILB, what to do with Austin. These are the headlining issues the Cowboys need to address out of the gates come February 27. We’ll see how this shakes out.