FRISCO, Texas -- The book is closed on the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. The first chapter of the 2019 Cowboys is about to be written.
The first order of personnel business will be determining who to keep and at what price.
The Cowboys have 14 unrestricted free agents, one restricted free agent and one exclusive-rights free agent. They could look to do long-term deals with quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones, who have deals that expire after the 2019 season, and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who can be under contract through 2020.
Four starters are among the unrestricted free agents, led by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and played on the franchise tag in 2018.
Here’s a breakdown and prediction of the unrestricted, restricted and exclusive-rights free agents:
Unrestricted free agents
FB Jamize Olawale -- The Cowboys like to use the fullback in the run game. While he wasn’t much of a factor in the pass game, he led the team in special-teams tackles. Prediction: Returns on a short-term deal.
RB Rod Smith -- The attempts were fewer, but he did not produce at the same level as he did in 2017, and finding a shiftier backup might be the direction the Cowboys want to go. Prediction: Doesn't return.
WR Tavon Austin -- He didn’t cost much in a trade with the Rams, but a groin injury prevented the coaches from using him the way they truly wanted. He had some juice in the return game. Prediction: Returns only if the price is right.
WR Cole Beasley -- He finished second on the team with 65 catches and was again a security blanket for Prescott. While he is a local kid, he is not married to staying with the hometown team. Prediction: Returns after testing the market.
TE Geoff Swaim -- He ended the year on injured reserve with a broken wrist. Injuries have been his problem. Solid blocker and receiver, but he can’t stay healthy. The Cowboys like Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin. Prediction: Finds opportunity with another team.
OT Cameron Fleming -- He filled in nicely as Tyron Smith’s backup after the Cowboys went through a disastrous time in 2017 with Chaz Green. When he signed here it was to potentially start at right tackle, but La’el Collins did not switch spots. Prediction: Finds opportunity with another team.
DT David Irving -- He opened the year on the suspended list and played in just two games all season because of a high ankle injury. He is blessed with talent, but he blew a big opportunity to cash in with a solid 2018. Prediction: Doesn't return.
DL Datone Jones -- He missed most of the year with a knee/hamstring injury. The coaches like his ability to play multiple spots on the line. Prediction: Doesn't return.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence -- He is the war daddy Jerry Jones has sought since DeMarcus Ware was cut. He is the Cowboys' best pass-rusher and is excellent vs. the run. He made $17.1 million on the franchise tag and wants to avoid a second year on the tag. Prediction: Signs a long-term deal.
OL Marcus Martin -- He suffered a toe injury during training camp and did not play a snap. Prediction: Doesn't return.
DT Caraun Reid -- He signed in September after a short training camp stint. He was an effective part of the interior rotation, and while not a full-time player, he has value. Prediction: Returns on a short-term deal.
LB Justin March-Lillard -- He spent the year as a reserve linebacker and special-teamer and would return in the same role if he is kept. Prediction: Finds opportunity with another team.
LB Damien Wilson -- A starter as the strong-side linebacker, he had 36 tackles and a sack in the regular season and also contributed on special teams. Prediction: Finds opportunity with another team.
LS L.P. Ladouceur -- The longest-tenured Cowboy would be back for his 15th season in 2019. He remains one of the better snappers, and the Cowboys do not have an heir apparent. Prediction: Returns on a short-term deal.
Restricted free agent
S Darian Thompson -- He joined the team in October and saw most of his action on special teams. With a full camp, he could compete for playing time. Prediction: Not tendered as an RFA but returns on one-year deal.
DE Daniel Ross -- He is a solid rotational player who can play multiple spots on the line, but he would not be as effective in a full-time role. Prediction: Cowboys tender him an offer to lock him up.