OLB Anthony Spencer has developed into a solid player, one Dallas must sign for 2013. (US Presswire)

The Cowboys made plenty of splashes in free agency and the draft last year, but it didn’t help them get over the 8-8 hump. It’s the worst place to be because not only are they missing the playoffs, but the 18th overall pick doesn’t guarantee a player ready to contribute.

The Cowboys need some help in a lot of areas, particularly on both lines. 

Free agents who must be signed:

  • OLB Anthony Spencer -- It might have taken longer than expected, but Spencer lived up to those first-round expectations this year. He had a career season with 11 sacks and many of them came at clutch times. And because he played this year at an $8.8 million cap hit, the Cowboys can actually lower his cap figure dramatically and still sign him to a long-term deal. 

  • OLB Victor Butler -- This only becomes a “must” if the Cowboys decide not to re-sign Spencer. If he leaves, coupled with DeMarcus Ware having multiple offseason surgeries, the Cowboys need depth on the outside. Butler is rather one-dimensional, but he can rush the passer and that’s always a big need.

Positions needing improvement:  

  • Defensive line -- The Cowboys need more size up front. That was evident in the final game of the year when Redskins RB Alfred Morris torched them for 200 yards. It’s likely the defensive tackle spot will need an upgrade with Josh Brent’s situation and possibly Jay Ratliff not returning.

  • Offensive line -- What’s new here? But the center and guard spots could use an upgrade, maybe even with a first-round pick. The Cowboys tried to address guard in free agency last year but it wasn’t that great. They have a lot of centers on the roster but none that should prevent them from taking one in the draft.

  • Running back -- The Cowboys saw how much they missed DeMarco Murray when a sprained foot sidelined him for six games. And with Felix Jones (unrestricted free agent) unlikely to return, the Cowboys not only need a No. 2 back, but one who can do the same things if or when Murray goes down again.

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