4 Moves the Dallas Cowboys Should Have Made This Offseason
Thus far, the Dallas Cowboys front office has done very well during the offseason given their circumstances. They easily navigated around the so-called "cap hell" and even gave themselves enough space to add a couple of free agents, while also setting themselves up to be in great position to re-sign franchise cornerstones Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys made some great low-key moves during free agency such as signing players like Ryan Williams, Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain. They are low-risk with the potential for high-reward.
This shift in philosophy seems to point to Dallas Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay and executive vice president Stephen Jones having more influence in the Cowboys' personnel decisions. Even though Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones may never give someone else the title of general manager, that doesn't mean others won't carry out the responsibilities a general manager normally would.
While the Cowboys should be lauded for their savviness this offseason, that doesn't mean there aren't a couple moves that would have helped the team even more.
The moves described later in this article were done without the benefit of hindsight. Therefore, the scenarios will be done as if they are happening presently. For example, there will no mention of the Sean Lee injury as a reason to draft or sign a player because at the time of the draft and beginning of free agency, Lee was perfectly healthy.
Now, let's take a look at some moves the Cowboys should have made this offseason.
Draft Telvin Smith Instead of Anthony Hitchens
The Cowboys' selection of Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round was definitely a head-scratcher. He was viewed as a late-round pick by most, and the Cowboys already had a bona fide starter at the "Mike" linebacker with Sean Lee.
However, the Cowboys drafted Hitchens to be Lee's backup, which seemed a little bit early for the Cowboys to draft a player that would automatically be relegated to a reserve role.
This is why the Cowboys should have drafted Florida State's Telvin Smith in the fourth round. Smith would have been able to come in and push Bruce Carter for the "Will" linebacker starting position instead of just handing Carter the job after his average year.
Cowboys fans remember the myriad of struggles Carter had in coverage last season, especially against the San Diego Chargers. If the Cowboys had drafted Smith, they would get a player that thrives in pass coverage and someone who could matchup well with the smaller, quicker running backs coming out of the backfield.
Smith is very undersized (6'3" and 218 pounds) but makes up for it with incredible speed, quickness and awareness.
At the very least, Smith would be a great nickel and dime linebacker who is mainly asked to play in coverage.
Also, Smith would provide depth at WLB, which the Cowboys certainly lack in his absence.
Now the selection of Smith would create a void at reserve MLB, however, there is an answer for that later in this article.
Draft Yawin Smallwood Instead of Will Smith
In this hypothetical scenario the Cowboys have drafted Telvin Smith instead of Anthony Hitchens, which leaves a void at the backup "Mike" linebacker position.
Therefore, in the seventh round the Cowboys should have selected Yawin Smallwood in replacement of Will Smith.
Smallwood has better size than Hitchens, while also being more adept in coverage. However, Smallwood is not as athletic as you would like for the Cowboys defense.
Nonetheless, the selection of Smallwood gives the Cowboys much better "value" than the selections of Smith or Hitchens give you.
Smallwood was a very productive player at the University of Connecticut and would give the Cowboys a proven, albeit collegiate, backup at the "Mike."
He would also give the Cowboys a great blitzing linebacker that has incredible instincts to get home on run or pass blitzes and bring a great impact on special teams for the Cowboys.
The swapping of Hitchens and Will Smith for Telvin Smith and Smallwood would leave the Cowboys with more impactful players and better overall depth in the linebacking corps.
Sign Brett Smith in Undrafted Free Agency
During the NFL draft, the Cowboys once again decided to not draft a quarterback they can develop to eventually replace Tony Romo.
The Cowboys should have made it a priority to sign Wyoming's Brett Smith in undrafted free agency. In Matt Waldman's very thorough Rookie Scouting Portfolio (purchase required), he described Smith as "tough, hyperaccurate, sneaky-good athlete, with the quickest release in this draft class."
Smith has adequate size (6'1" and 205 pounds) and huge hands (10") for a quarterback. Smith's athleticism, quick release and accuracy have many comparing him with the Cowboys' own undrafted free-agent gem Tony Romo.
Smith is not ready to be a starter or even backup quarterback in the NFL yet. However, he has all the tools to develop into a very productive signal-caller in the future.
Romo probably has two to three years left as a great NFL quarterback, which is plenty of time to develop Smith and get him ready for the starting role around 2016 or 2017.
Smith would give the Cowboys a quarterback with realistic potential to become a starting-caliber quarterback for the future.
Sign Colt Lyerla in Undrafted Free Agency
Colt Lyerla's college career was mired with off-field issues. Lyera went undrafted not because of his ability to play football but because of the wealth of character concerns.
However, if the Cowboys signed Lyerla in undrafted free agency then it would eliminate any risk while giving them the opportunity to get a very high reward in return.
Based only on playing ability, Lyerla was one of, if not the, most talented tight ends in the draft. At this point, he is strictly a receiving tight end with little or no blocking ability. Nevertheless, his athleticism, hands and toughness make him a quarterback's dream at tight end.
Lyerla is also a very underrated route runner who has the sneaky ability to slide into voids left by defenses.
Lyerla would initially compete with James Hanna for the third tight end position this year. His playmaking ability would give the Cowboys what they hoped they would get when they drafted Hanna.
Lyerla would give the Cowboys another weapon on offense for Tony Romo to utilize. Lyerla could line up in the slot, inline or out wide and would give the Cowboys the ability to create some nightmarish matchups for the defense.
When Witten eventually retires, the Cowboys could be left with a dynamic duo at tight end with Gavin Escobar and Lyerla. This could allow the Cowboys to finally be able to thrive in 12 (two tight ends, one running back) personnel.
If Lyerla stayed out of trouble, he would bring a serious and immediate impact to the Cowboys offense. However, if he does not stay out of trouble then it would be easy for the Cowboys to cut him and receive no negative consequences.