The Cowboys have three major position groups that need to be upgraded this off season if they are to compete for a playoff spot in 2013. They are, in order: S, DL, OL. Every other position group on the team ranges from elite (TE, Edge Rusher, I'd argue LB given that the SLB won't see much time in the 4-3) to well above average (QB, RB, CB).
Comments: Anthony Spencer is the best edge player available in free agency and the Cowboys #1 priority should be keeping him somehow. Cook is a solid, versatile interior lineman, exactly the sort of player you want as your primary backup. While Sims infuriates with his mental mistakes, his athleticism is undeniable and makes him a good fit in a Tampa 2 scheme.
Bernadeau and Free were absolutely terrible last year and need to be replaced. Cherilus might be outside the Cowboys price range but he is a chronically underrated player that Dallas just may be able to slip under the cap. Schwartz was a part time player for Minnesota last year but has consistently graded very well when given a chance including as a starter in Carolina in 2010. He should represent a significant, cost effective upgrade over MB at RG. Both of these guys are also both on the right side of 30.
Delanie Walker probably dropped his way out of San Fran's plans, but he is an excellent run blocker who also can stretch the seams in the passing game.
Johnny Knox is a good player with injury issues and as such is an excellent buy low candidate as someone to push Dwayne Harris for WR3.
Dan Connor is a poor scheme fit and over payed and shouldn't be part of the Cowboys plans in 2013. Drafting Louteleli (spoiler alert!) spells the end for Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman who are also not great fits for the scheme.
1st - Star Louteleli, DT, Utah
Comments: At one point considered a top 5 prospect, Louteleli appears set to drop after the revelation that he has a potentially career threatening heart condition. However, if he checks out medically, he would represent excellent value at what I consider one of Dallas' three weakest position groups.
Other Possibilities: Matt Elam, S, Florida; Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
2nd - Eric Reid, FS, LSU
Comments: After a stellar combine, Reid may not be available at #47. But going by CBSSports rankings he just might be and would be excellent value at a position of crucial need for the Cowboys. The Cowboys safety play was amongst the worse in the NFL last year and hoping that Matt Johnson can be a savior after not seeing the field as a rookie is not a solution.
Other possibilities: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida Atlantic; Larry Warford, G, Kentucky; Tank Carradine, DE, FSU
3rd - Brian Schwenke, C, California
Comments: Schwenke is another guy whose stellar combine might push him up the board and out of the Cowboys reach here. However, if he is available, he would represent an immediate upgrade at C and could potentially solidify the position for the next decade. Dallas may well get a shot at him, given the relative value of the C position.
Other possibilities: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina; Brian Winters, G, Kent State
4th - Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
Comments: Despite his horrible showing in the bench press, Devin Taylor is the type of athletic DE that is ideally suited to get up the field in a 4-3 scheme. He and Tyrone Crawford would represent two developmental prospects and rotation players behind the aging Ware and Spencer.
Other possibilities: Khaled Holmes, C, USC; DJ Swearinger, S, South Carolina
5th - JC Tretter, G, Cornell
Comments: A dominant player at a lower level, Tretter wouldn't be expected to step in immediately. But his combine performance demonstrates that he has the athletic chops to play with the big boys. In this scenario I'd envision him and Arkin competing to replace Livings at LG a year or two down the road.
6th - Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
Comments: Injuries are obviously a huge concern, but the talent is undeniable. His combine performance was off the charts good; in fact he had the second highest Speed Score (http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/8983630/2013-nfl-combine-metric-tags-knile-davis-potential-draft-gem-40-time, Insider only, sorry) in the Football Outsider database. He would be a dynamic backup for DeMarco Murray. And we know how much Jerry loves his Hogs.
HB - DeMarco Murray, Knile Davis*, Phillip Tanner
FB - Lawrence Vickers
C - Brian Schwenke*, Ryan Cook, Phil Costa
Comments: Obviously, the big change here is an almost complete revamping of the offensive line. I think almost any Cowboys fan would agree that such change is warranted and I believe this would represent a significant upgrade over what the Cowboys currently have on the roster. Cherilus might be too expensive though, especially considering the cost of cutting Free. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to give Free a chance to redeem himself with Parnell sitting in the wings, but hey, this is a DREAM offseason, hehe.
DE - DeMarcus Ware (RE), Anthony Spencer (LE), Tyrone Crawford, Devin Taylor*
Comments: The big focus here was finding another starting S and upgrading the DL. I'm really not that concerned about SLB, as NFL teams are so rarely in their base defense these days. I envision the combination of Scandrick (NCB) and Barry Church (hybrid S/LB) getting the majority of snaps ahead of whoever the Cowboys list as their SLB. I think Reid would be a major upgrade over Church especially given that Church is coming off an Achilles injury. In time Church could replace Sensabaugh. I think the addition of, especially, Louteleli and also Taylor would provide an enormous upgrade for the depth along the DL and provide some hope for the future. Most of the Cowboys DL players are aging and their future production is in question.
K - Dan Bailey
P - Chris Jones
LS - L.P. Ladouceur
KR - Dwayne Harris, Knile Davis*
PR - Dwanye Harris
Comments: No need for a change here. Bailey is one of the best kickers in the NFL, Jones has shown great potential when healthy, and Ladouceur is also amongst the best in the league (though getting expensive). Harris showed late last year that he can be a dynamic return man. Hopefully a new special teams coach and the return of some injured players (e.g. Matt Johnson) will improve the coverage units.
1. This obviously doesn't include any UDFAs some of whom could be expected to displace some bottom of the roster players (e.g. Orie Lemon).
2. I'll readily admit that this scenario is probably overly optimistic. Cherilus is probably outside of the Cowboys price range and the Combine has probably moved a couple of the players I have slotted to the Cowboys (Reid, Schwenke) outside of the range at which I have slotted them. That being said, the basic principle remains: the Cowboys must focus intensely on dramatically improving three position groups this offseason: S, DL, and OL. All the other moves are basically window trimming.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggstions
*Designates a draft pick
**Designates a FA signing