The NFL offseason now applies to the entire National Football League upon the conclusion of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, but the Dallas Cowboys have been busy with future plans for about a month already. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones has made solid use of that time in making numerous changes to the Dallas coaching staff—essentially blowing up the entire defensive scheme, playbook and coordinator.
In evaluating the Cowboys as they embark on the mission of surpassing mediocrity and disappointment, it’s impossible to pick just one position that Dallas has to upgrade in order to take control of the NFC East again.
This franchise has numerous holes to fill and the strategy heading into the 2013 NFL Draft should be all about selecting the best player available.
Certainly the offensive line needs to be addressed in as many as three positions, depending on what you think of right tackle Doug Free and where he could end up. Quarterback Tony Romo has yet to experience the “Romo-friendly” offense that his GM has been promising for several seasons.
Defensive tackle is going to be a different discussion entirely in new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 front. Dallas is not rich in young interior linemen or necessarily the right kind of linemen as the Cowboys will definitely look to add smaller, quicker tackles than the defensive ends they currently have from their 3-4 front.
But I don’t think the Cowboys will go into this draft thinking that they must choose an offensive lineman or a defensive tackle in the first round. Sure doesn’t mean they won’t, but they will definitely be tempted by some intriguing prospects that put heat on opposing quarterbacks.
DeMarcus Ware moves to the defensive line for the first time since his days at Troy. This transition is expected to go well, at least according to former Dallas pass-rush specialist Charles Haley. Ware needs help upfront, especially since Anthony Spencer—a would-be defensive end moving forward with the Cowboys—is probably too small for what Kiffin is looking for to compliment Ware. Spencer is also an unrestricted free agent, so you do the math.
So this means that prototypical, 4-3 defensive ends are going to be looked at and available to Dallas at the 18th selection in the first round.
No, Ware is far from done. But Jones wants the defensive side of the ball to become a strength once again, a difference-maker that creates opportunities for an offense that already has a lot going for it.
Imagine if Romo had anywhere from two to four extra possessions each game, some possibly beginning in their opponent’s territory. There’s much lesser quarterbacks that do and they often play through January.
Last year’s draft was extremely expensive for the Cowboys. In trading up in the first round for a cornerback after having already dumped $50 million into another free agent at the same position, Dallas not only fortified the area least likely to create any real change but also lost a second-round selection that could have been any number of players that could have easily made this roster better—and deeper.
This offseason, Dallas has to address the pass rush because while I still feel that Jay Ratliff can make a huge impact on this roster in 2013, there is no doubt that Jones will looking to add another young stud that can possibly lead this defense in the next few years.
Here’s five pass-rushers that would not only bring the quickest assistance for Ware upfront, but also help pave the way for life after Ware as the Cowboys’ leading sack artist, a title the eight-year veteran has carried since entering the league in 2005.