Reassessing Cowboys' Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What's Left to Address
This offseason has shown a big change in mindset from the Dallas Cowboys, and love it or hate it, their plan is clear. This organization wants to get its salary cap situation under control and get younger across the depth chart.
"If we don’t learn from what has bitten us then shame on us. Unfortunately, we have been paying guys who are over 30 years old a lot of money up front and it hasn’t worked for us," Cowboys Chief Operating Officer Stephen Jones told David Moore of The Dallas Morning News.
The coaching staff has also seen some shifting to a younger direction, with Rod Marinelli replacing Monte Kiffin as defensive coordinator. Kiffin will still work with the team as an assistant coach to the defense.
Through the team's offseason shifting, signings and releases, it's clear Dallas is attempting a new approach. While those moves will shape next season to some degree, there is still work to be done.
Let's break down what Dallas has been up to, but more so, what is still left to be done this offseason.
Dallas has parted ways with more than a few big names this offseason, largely due to salary-cap woes. DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Miles Austin and Jason Hatcher are all no longer on the team roster.
While their departures likely left many fans feeling down, the Cowboys needed to cut costs as well as some of their older players.
Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis also left last offseason, accepting the same job with the Bears. It will be interesting to see if Dallas continues to enjoy its recent success on special teams under Rich Bisaccia.
More departures will eventually come in order to trim the roster down to 53 players. It is likely that the most notable pink slips have already been handed out this offseason. One name that might not make the final cut, though, is new quarterback Brandon Weeden.
Weeden signed a cheap two-year deal with the Cowboys, but this team isn't known for carrying three quarterbacks on the roster in recent years. He might make it if Jason Garrett is impressed with him during training camp. If Weeden falters, however, it's unlikely he'll wear the star on his helmet next season.
Dallas' signings this offseason is not an extensive list. To this point, the team has only brought in Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Brandon Weeden and Henry Melton.
Melton was by far the team's biggest signing, and all has been seemingly quiet at Valley Ranch since the deal became official. DallasCowboys.com writer Nick Eatman believes that more signings are on the way, just don't expect any more blockbusters.
"A veteran receiver or safety wouldn’t surprise me, and maybe an interior backup to replace what they had in Costa," Eatman said.
It also wouldn't be surprising to see the 'Boys find a way to bring back Anthony Spencer on a cheap deal. ESPN NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer believes the team will bring Spencer back on a one-year contract at some point.
While Spencer did receive some initial attention at the start of free agency, it seems his market has dried up a bit. Given the fact he is still rehabbing from last season's injury, his best bet of landing with a team is Dallas. It's clear the 31 other teams seem to be showing hesitancy towards him and his injury situation has to be a big reason why.
Before or after this year's draft, Dallas will certainly bring in a few more veteran names through free agency. Expect Spencer to be the last notable name brought in, and the others will purely be for depth reasons.
Not only are former defensive leaders gone, the team's coaching leader on defense last year has been demoted. With Rod Marinelli now defensive coordinator, there are likely changes coming to Dallas' 4-3 scheme.
The Cowboys' defensive line is going to feature more than a few new faces. Marinelli is going to give them more than a few new plays to learn. There's also the fact that the secondary could use more depth at cornerback and it wouldn't hurt to bring in a rookie safety.
Dallas' defense is going to see more than a few changes come training camp and the preseason. Changes are what the unit probably needs, too, when considering it finished No. 26 in the league last year.
Marinelli is going to push for the 'Boys to draft players that he wants to coach up. He'll then need to find a way to make this unit work as well together as he did the defensive line last season. Despite how many injuries the line fell victim to, Marinelli was able to get quality time out of guys like George Selvie and Nick Hayden.
This unit needs veterans like Brandon Carr, Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to step up and fill the leadership roles that DeMarcus Ware and Hatcher left. Marinelli needs to bring out the best in this group that didn't produce a season ago.
The adding and subtracting personnel side of the defense will be largely finished after the draft concludes. That's when the real work starts for Marinelli's group.
One of the biggest aspects of the offseason left is the NFL draft, and with this class, it's one Dallas can't falter in.
More than a few draft analysts have noted how deep this draft is, and that is good news for the 'Boys, who need more than a little help defensively. Even with Henry Melton in the fold, he needs another talented, young defensive tackle lining up next to him. Someone like Aaron Donald might be exactly the teammate Melton needs.
With Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware gone, defensive end is another key position the team needs to be addressed. Considering Darren Woodson was the last notable safety in the secondary, it would be smart to take a look at this position early on as well.
There's plenty of film left for the Cowboys' scouts to break down before next month, but the biggest needs are obvious. This draft is one that Jerry Jones and Co. cannot afford to squander.
Training camp is some months away, but it will be a crucial time for the Cowboys. There will be camp battles at positions that have had predetermined starters for some years now.
No matter who the team brings in via the draft, the rookie defensive ends and tackles will have to battle it out with the veterans. Nick Hayden, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and others aren't going to hand over the starting gigs without a fight. McClain even told ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins that he is gunning for a starting tackle position.
The question of whether or not head coach Jason Garrett wants three of his 53 players to be quarterbacks will also be a camp storyline.
Weeden will need to show promise to the former backup quarterback if he wants to make the cut. Garrett's time as head coach isn't a long and storied one, but he has leaned towards only carrying Kyle Orton and Tony Romo as of late. Garrett elected to roll with just Nos. 9 and 18 at the position each of the past two seasons.
Training camp is always about evaluating your team's talent and sorting out the depth chart. At this coming camp, however, far less position starters are foregone conclusions as they have been in the past.