The Cowboys made big strides this season on offense. It's a shame Murray went down. With him, Romo, the receivers, Jones as a change of pace and kick return guy, and Witten, the Cowboys look like a team that could really score. If healthy, they are set offensively, save at least one and maybe two interior lineman. Yes, they could use a legit back up QB. But mostly, the Cowboys should be fine on this side of the ball next year.
It's the defensive side that is worrisome. That was the concern this off season and the Cowboys did little to address the problem.
We know nothing about Bruce Carter, yet. Will he emerge as a starter next year and be productive? After that, you've got Ware, Lee, and Jenkins and not a whole lot else besides filler. The defensive line is mediocre. Newman won't be back (I hope). For sure, his ability to cover and even to pick passes is in steep decline. Spencer should be cut loose. He's had four years to be a key piece and has rarely strung together four or five good games. All you see with him are occasional big plays, but not enough to move the needle consistently. Elam is a solid back up but not a play-maker. Alan Ball shouldn't be in the NFL.
James looks done. Ditto for Brooking. Coleman, Spears and Hatcher are journeymen, nothing more. Ratliff is over matched at nose tackle and getting to the end of his career anyway.With so many areas of need, what are the priorities? First, you have to hope that Carter can step up this year the way Lee did and that Lee continues to improve. You hope Jenkins has more health. Obvious, because of their contracts, Sensabaugh and Scandrick will be back. To me, whether in free agency or in the draft, the Cowboys need to address these areas, in this order:
1. Outside linebacker.
Someway, somehow, this team needs to get pressure on the ball. Everyone thought that would happen when Spencer was drafted. But it really hasn't.
Newman is done. Period. The Cowboys have to find a shut down corner. I think Jenkins has shown a lot of guts this year but he should not be your shutdown corner.
The Cowboys really need a buy who can hit people, blitz now and then, intercept a pass, tackle in the open field to stop long gains, and be disruptive. They haven't had that kind of player at Safety sense Woodson, really.
4. Nose tackle
This one is more controversial, but Ratliff is not the player he was a few years ago. Rarely does he collapse the pocket and he's often overpowered at the point of attack. In spot duty at Nose and end, he'd be OK. As an every-down player, no.
Yes, you'd like to see an at least one defensive end. And if Carter isn't ready, then a middle linebacker will be a higher priority. But there are just too many holes to fill in one off season. You can only hope our illustrious GM can have a pro bowl off seasons this year.