With the addition of the 5th round compensation pick Dallas received from the departure of Cole Beasley, the Cowboys will now have 7 total picks.
While that is the standard for all 32 teams prior to trades and comp picks, it could prove to not being enough to plug up the holes on this team.
Free agency brought in some new faces such as Gerald McCoy (DT), Dontari Poe (DT), and Aldon Smith (DE). However, Dallas had even greater impact players leave for other teams during this off-season.
Byron Jones and Robert Quinn played critical roles for this team, yet still, there are voids at their positions. It also didn’t help that All-Pro Center, Travis Fredrick, made a self-conscious decision to leave football all together via retirement.
Players leave every year, so this isn’t any different, right?
Wrong. The Cowboys offensive line continues to be the highest-paid group of blockers across the league. This wouldn’t be a problem, except the age and injuries are beginning to pile up on these guys. Tyron Smith has been a top tier tackle when healthy but has missed 3 games per season over the last 4 years. Adding on to this is Dallas losing their swing tackle, Cam Fleming, to the New York Giants, leaving yet another gaping hole.
Then there is also 2018 second-round guard, Connor Williams, who has also been plagued with injuries since entering the league, causing him to miss 8 games thus far. With 2019’s third-round pick, Connor McGovern (G), missing all of his rookie years, Dallas now has 2 interior linemen that are far from a sure thing.
Dallas does still have Joe Looney to play the center position in place of Fredrick, but still, need to find an answer for their swing tackle position. It also isn’t crazy to think Dallas could be looking to find better depth for their other interior lineman positions.
So far, it looks like Dallas could have enough to fill in these gaps, correct?
Not quite. The offensive line isn’t the only offensive position that has a glaring need. After Randall Cobb elected to sign with the Houston Texans, this left Dallas without a solid #3 option. Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, or Tavon Austin just haven’t done enough to cement themselves as possible starter caliber players. Having another option besides Cooper and Gallup at wide receivers is a significant role that doesn’t seem to be on this team just yet. The draft is highly deep at this position, but again this will require Dallas to use some of its limited picks. With the lack of production from receivers not named Amari Cooper or Michael Gallup, don’t be shocked if Dallas double dips in the draft at this position.
The Cowboys also did a good job of resigning Blake Jarwin to a 3-year extension, which locks this position up. This gives them a promising option for the next few years. Dallas also sought out Blake Bell, former Chiefs tight-end. Bell is known more for his blocking ability, which is a key component for players like Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. While their top 2 tight-ends are looking average to above average, this won’t stop Dallas possibly taking a better prospect this season. Mike McCarthy hasn’t shown too much interest at this position in the past, but now could be a different tale. This isn’t a dire need, but its definitely a position that could be upgraded via the draft this year.
On the defense side of the ball, there are needs at nearly all positions. The defensive line has 1 trusted commodity named Demarcus Lawrence. Yet, that also doesn’t seem like a 100% solidified position considering he’s coming off a season that ended in 5 sacks. After Lawrence, you’re left with questions about Randy Gregory & Aldon Smith. Both have shown potential, but neither has played pro football in years. The backup defensive ends such as Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, and Jalen Jelks has also not proven to be liable options. This group doesn’t have the firepower that new defensive coordinator, Mike Nolan, looks for. This will lead to Dallas keeping a close eye on the defensive ends in the upcoming draft.
A young player that can cause chaos down the middle could also be in the Cowboys’ near future. While Dallas did address the position with McCoy and Poe, there is still much work needed to be done there. Antwaun Woods and Trysten Hill may not sound like a bad thing as backups, but it doesn’t sound like a great thing either.
Both Woods and Hill didn’t show much promise throughout last year’s season. Hill was a healthy scratch on multiple occasions his rookie season, making it seem like Dallas knew he wasn’t ready for live-action. Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy are also higher in age, making them substandard options for the future.
For the time being, Dallas isn’t too desperate for an interior lineman, but new defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, has made it known that he wants some disruptive players.
While the defensive line is also not solidified by any means, many still believe the linebackers are set in stone and are possibly the best group on the defense. To those people, we’d say they’re right, right?
Yes, the linebackers are in a good position with the returns of Sean Lee and Joe Thomas. Jaylon Smith isn’t coming off his best year, but he still continues to show the potential of becoming a top linebacker. The question at linebackers lies in 2018’s first-round pick, Leighton Vander Esch, who is coming off neck surgery. Including his years at Boise State, Leighton has been hurt 2 of the last 4 years of his football career. Coming back from a neck injury won’t be a walk in the park-like most people may expect. Sean Lee’s age and injury history also suggest that the depth could use some resources in this draft. It may not be a pressing need, but this could be something that Dallas could get ahead of before it becomes a more troubling issue.
A secondary is a group everyone will be focused on after Byron Jones signed with the Dolphins. Anthony Brown did resign with Dallas, which temporarily makes him the #1 corner on the team. He may be locked in for the near future, but guys like Jourdan Lewis and Chidobe Awuzie are both at the end of their rookie contracts. Considering that Dallas could be out 2 of their top 3 corners next year, that position is very crucial. Much like the receivers, this could also be a position that Dallas decides to shoot multiple shots during the draft. At the very least, its almost a given that this group will have a new addition after the draft.
Last, but not least are the safeties. Adding Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix looks to be a good fit at the moment. However, he only signed a 1-year deal, which makes it possible that he leaves the next off-season. Xavier Woods is also in the final year of his rookie deal.
For this season, the Cowboys are in good shape but moving forward, this could be a grave problem. Donovan Wilson and Darian Thompson have been serviceable, but aren’t the kind of players the Cowboys can rely on for the future. Since drafting Byron Jones as a safety in 2015, Dallas hasn’t been known for taking this position too highly in the draft. However, Mike Nolan’s voice could bring in some changes that make it a top priority.
There are still free agents available for the Cowboys to add, but they’ll need to look to the draft to build a better foundation. This team may seem like it’s at the doorstep of becoming great, but there are still missing links in many areas.
The draft being virtual this year is making it tougher for every team to get to know these rookies prior to drafting them. Dallas has a tough task coming up, and now more than in recent history, the front office has to hit on these draft picks.
The amount of needs is greater than the number of picks, but Dallas could shorten that up with a strong 2020 draft class.
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