Ranking Dallas Cowboys' Top Offseason Moves Following 2014 NFL Draft
With the month of May nearly complete, the 2014 NFL offseason is coming to an end. Rookie camps have started, and before we know it, OTAs and training camp will be underway.
The Dallas Cowboys made a lot of personnel moves this spring in hopes of improving on their usual 8-8 finish. Not only have a lot of players changed, but many of the coaches have also done the same.
Here, I’m going to examine the most important moves Dallas has made to date. I will rank the most impactful changes the team has made in order of how they’ll affect the Cowboys in 2014.
5. Hiring Scott Linehan
Last year, we weren’t really sure who was in charge of the offense. Head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan seemed to split the duty.
Although the offense wasn’t the main issue of last year’s team, it sure can be more efficient. Dallas was fifth in scoring in 2013, but only 16th in total yards. The offense was decent throughout the season but not consistent enough to be regarded as elite.
In 2014, there will be no confusion whose offense it is. Jerry Jones brought in Scott Linehan this offseason as the passing game coordinator. Linehan had spent the previous five years in Detroit as the Lions’ offensive coordinator.
With all titles aside, Linehan will be calling the plays next year and running the offense. If Tony Romo and Dez Bryant can duplicate what Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson have done the last few years, Dallas’ offense could be lethal.
4. Signing Henry Melton
The Cowboys defense was downright awful last year. Only a few players performed well, and it led to Dallas ranking dead last in total defense.
The weakest part of the team was arguably the defensive front. Even though Jason Hatcher had one of his better years as a pro, the rest of the line was either inconsistent or injured.
With guys such as Hatcher, Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware no longer on the roster, Jones knew he had to add someone with both talent and youth. Henry Melton is just that.
The 27-year-old played in only three games last year before getting hurt, but he was one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL in 2012. The former Texas Longhorn recorded six sacks and 44 tackles in just 14 games for the No. 5-ranked defense in the league.
If Melton can play like he did two seasons ago, then he will be the best defensive lineman the Cowboys have had in three years. He should be able to disrupt the backfield and free up space for linebacker Sean Lee to operate.
3. Changing Defensive Coordinators
As stated, the Cowboys had one of the worst defenses in team history in 2013. No matter who’s to blame, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin had to be replaced.
In 2014, Rod Marinelli will be the man with the pressure on him. As the new coordinator, he’ll be expecting some drastic changes on that side of the ball.
Although the roster has changed a bit, it will be extremely important for Marinelli to change the culture on defense. Players were too relaxed last season, and it showed in their urgency on the field.
According to Tim McMahon of ESPN Dallas, Marinelli wants struggling linebacker Bruce Carter to be better. Marinelli said, “It’s a man’s game, man. Play it the right way. That’s what I want. We’re going to coach it. We’ll coach you hard. Be where you’re supposed to be. This is what we expect. And then go.”
Carter, among others, needs to improve on what he did last year. If Marinelli can get that through to everyone, this defense should be better from day one.
2. Releasing DeMarcus Ware
The most controversial move Dallas made this offseason was the decision to release Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. Ware was the Cowboys’ face of the franchise for almost a decade and will be regarded as one of the best defenders on any Dallas team.
Although his presence will be missed, Jones made the correct decision in letting him go. The future Hall of Famer’s best years are behind him, and he no longer warrants the contract he signed in Denver.
Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe Ware has several decent years remaining in his career, but he’s nowhere close to being the dominant force he was just a few seasons ago.
Cutting Ware opened up plenty of cap room for Dallas to use its money more wisely. If the Cowboys had extended Ware, it may have stopped Jones from being able to re-sign superstars such as Bryant and Tyron Smith.
Many Cowboys fans might be skeptical of the decision, but it will be the right move in the end, especially if rookie Demarcus Lawrence can make an impact now.
1. Drafting Zack Martin
The most important offseason move Dallas’ front office made was selecting Zack Martin in the first round of the draft. When the No. 16 pick came around, there were several exciting prospects available, including Johnny Manziel.
Instead of drafting the guy who will sell more jerseys, Jones used his smarts to get someone who will help immediately.
Martin will start from day one and has made an already-improved offensive line into one of the better units in the league. He’s tremendously flexible and can really play any position along the line. By joining Smith and Travis Frederick, the Cowboys line will be solidified for years.
We witnessed a different Jones this offseason, and picking Martin is the perfect example. Jones was no longer concerned about keeping his expensive veterans and making the biggest splash of the first round. For the first time I can remember, it seems as if Jones is dying to win, and his personnel moves reflected that.