Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledged the team has gotten worse due to a mass exodus of talent during the 2017 free-agency period.
“I would agree with that,” Jones said on Sunday of the perception the team took a step back, per Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Star-Telegram. “What we hope to do is increase our talent on defense through the draft.”
The Cowboys lost a majority of their secondary rotation, with Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox leaving in free agency. They also lost defensive end Jack Crawford and defensive tackle Terrell McClain.
“People say our biggest issue and the thing that keeps us from winning a championship is the lack of (defense),” Jones said. “We didn’t have the players to be a great defense.
“Hopefully we can address that (in the draft). Now I am not going to say we are going to sit here and pick for need. But I will say before we started free agency we took a snapshot of the draft and knew that it was deep in the defensive line, deep in the secondary. We knew that was the ability to really improve ourselves there.”
The Cowboys have seven picks in this year's draft, missing only a fifth-rounder. They select 28th overall in the first round, and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has them taking Michigan do-everything safety Jabrill Peppers.
“We are not going to get any better on defense if we just keep paying the guys we got,” Jones said. “What we have to do better on defense is we have to get pressure on the passer. And we have to make plays on the ball. We have to do that better."
Jones' public comments seem to make it pretty obvious the Cowboys will target edge-rushers and members of the secondary with their early selections. Odds are they'll go best player available at those spots and hope the young players develop as quickly as Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott did on the offensive side of the ball a year ago.