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The VRR: A Busy Offseason in the Works for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys

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In yesterday's press conference (read it here in Dave's post), Jerry Jones noted that Wade Phillips' assistants will also be re-signed.

Jones said offensive quality control coach Wes Phillips, assistant linebackers coach Dat Nguyen and safeties coach Brett Maxie will be back next season. All three of their contracts had expired at the end of the season.

Now that we know the coaching staff will pretty much remain the same, the obvious next step would be to re-sign Miles Austin, which sounds like a deal will be in the works soon.

"Yes," Jones said Thursday. "That's all I'm going to say, but the answer is yes."

We also know that the free agency period will be a bit restrictive for Jones and the Cowboys because they finished as a final eight team.

As a team that lost in the divisional round, the Cowboys can sign only one unrestricted free agent for an estimated $5.5 million or more in the first year of the contract. They can sign an unlimited amount of unrestricted free agents to contracts with a first-year salary of $3.7 million or less.

More VRR after the jump.

Jones can go after that one big money player. And we have seen how well the team did in bringing in players on the cheap, such as Keith Brooking, Gerald Sensabaugh, and Igor Olshansky. Let's assume he will do the same in 2010 by bringing in at least one veteran who can compete for a starting position.

Offensive linemen look to be on most of our minds after that Minnesota loss. Being the biggest need, those positions will most likely be targeted in both free agency and the draft.

But how about some speed players, such as at the wide receiver position? Jones sounds as if he's okay with sticking with the team's current group. Really? Or is the following quote just a JJ-style smoke signal?

"We've got some receivers, enough where if I left the draft without a receiver, I'd sleep like a baby," Jerry said.

How about Kevin Ogletree? Is he ready for a starting role in this offense?

"Not yet," said position coach Ray Sherman. "He’s getting there, but the next step, if there’s going to be one, has to be earned. He hasn’t earned it yet. Don’t rush him." You guessed it. Sherman was talking this week about Kevin Ogletree, the "next Miles Austin."

Everyone wants to see Ogletree in a prominent role for ’10. Me, too. A sneaky suspicion is this will happen, but as Ray’s tone indicated, the goal for the off-season is to keep the kid very, very humble.

In discussing draft needs, Jones admitted that he would like to upgrade the offensive line and perhaps add a linebacker or punt returner.

"You'd love to have some juice there," Jones said. "I'm a lot more encouraged and pleased by how [Crayton] returned kicks this year than I have been at any time of his career. That could mitigate that. In other words, would I go reaching for that with Patrick Crayton [on the roster]? That wouldn't be wise."

Jones said depth in the offensive line is a priority. He also said that even though the Cowboys feel good about their linebacker corps, it isn't out of the question that they will draft a linebacker.

"If given the opportunity to get a warhorse there, I'm not saying we'd pass on that," Jones said.

Mike Jenkins and Anthony Spencer were two of the Cowboys' most improved players this season. Jerry Jones would like to see that same improvement (as I'm sure many of us would) out of TE Martellus Bennett.

"There's a big difference in the down-to-business of those two guys. Spencer has been down to business since he walked in the door," Jones said, per the Cowboys blog at Dallas Morning News.

"Bennett can get down to business. I know that he can ... The bottom line is, we all see what a tremendous weapon he is and can be. His blocking is really as impressive as his ability to be a big target for [Tony] Romo. I'm confident he sees that. He's extremely smart. He can get it. I think focus would be the word."

Practice squad WRs Jesse Holley and Manny Johnson, along with DE Marcus Dixon have signed futures deals to return to the team. Perhaps 2010 can be the year that Dixon makes the jump to the 53.

Jerry Jones alluded to Dixon in Thursday's press conference in praising Wade Phillips.

"I was just on the phone with a player a few minutes ago that's a practice squad player. He just expressed it better than I ever could. He said, 'I want to get everything I can get from coach Phillips.' He's a defensive player. He said, 'I want to get everything I can get from him. I want to get everything I can get from Paul [Pasqualoni].' Obviously, I was talking to a defensive lineman. I want to get everything I can possibly get from their experience and from their resourcefulness as experienced coaches."

And the Cowboys have been hard at work today, working out nine players and signing one, WR Titus Ryan, to the Futures List.

[T]he Cowboys also signed another wide receiver in Titus Ryan, who played collegiately at Concordia College, and spent the last three years bouncing around with the Chiefs, Saints and Panthers before two stops in the CFL with Calgary and Winnipeg. Ryan, apparently, was the star from Friday’s extensive workout at Valley Ranch that included nine players.

Here are the other eight players that participated in today's workout:

Joel Bell, OT, Furman
Jonathan Evans, RB/FB, Baylor
Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
Marcus Maxwell, WR, Oregon
David Pittman, CB, Northwestern State (La.)
DeAngelis Sandro, K, Nebraska
Kelvin Smith, LB, Syracuse
Keron Williams, DT, Massachusetts 

Cornerback may not that be that high of a need during the offseason. Though "you can't have enough good cornerbacks", Orlando Scandrick did show some progression as Dallas' third corner.

Scandrick lost the battle for a starting job to Jenkins, but still turned in an excellent season for the 'Boys. His most useful skill turned out to be as a tackler. Football Outsiders compiled a list of cornerback stops -- tackles on completed passes that kept the offense from gaining 40 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third and fourth down -- and Scandrick finished second in the NFL with 19. That adds up to 45 percent of the total completions against him, third-best in the league.

Tim MacMahon rounds up the Cowboys' talented 25 & under players here.

Randy Galloway says that kicker is the most dire need for the Cowboys and suggests what many of us have suggested.

Sign Steve Hoffman. Steal him from the Chiefs. No, Hoffman is a not a kicker. He’s a kicker-finder. Formerly a Cowboys’ assistant coach for six seasons, Hoffman was magical in repeatedly locating the right foot. Very few of these guys hang around long, but the Cowboys are only worried about next season.

Kicker is the most desperate need for ’10.

Mat McBriar has gone in for arthroscopic knee surgery already and Andre Gurode will soon follow. Bobby Carpenter recently had surgery on his shoulder.

Carpenter had his left shoulder scoped but should be back in time for the off-season conditioning program. Carpenter had been bothered by the injury for most of the season but did not miss a game.

McBriar's surgery sounds to have gone well and he is beginning rehab.

McBriar said Thursday he's already started his rehab after having a loose particle removed. He said his knee started bothering him in the second Eagles game, but it didn't prevent him from punting.

Every season, you can look back on a particular game and mark it as a turning point for the team. The Week Five OT victory over the Chiefs looks to be that game.

"I think from the fifth game (Kansas City) on, we were a dominant front," Phillips said. "The play of (Mike) Jenkins started coming on. We started playing third downs better. You’re not going to shut out everyone, but to have two shutouts in one season, back-to-back, I think shows the potential of this team defensively. And we’re not going to change a whole lot defensively."

Since that Chiefs game, the Cowboys went from 12th in total defense and gradually moved up to end the season as the fourth-best defense in the NFL.

Here is the NFL's Sound FX Video for the Cowboys @ Vikings.

Wade Phillips talks about what his experience has been in coaching past Pro Bowls. It sounds as if he likes to watch nose tackles.

"It gives our coaches an idea what a pro bowl player is like when you are drafting and looking at potential players," Phillips said. "It helps. When Cortez Kennedy, way back, and Ted Washington were there as a nose guards you saw what a nose guard looks like. In fact Ted Washington was with San Francisco and we ended up getting him Denver and I ended up taking him to Buffalo."

There's a slight chance that Tony Romo and Flozell Adams could serve as alternates to the Pro Bowl.

Favre typically passes on the showcase, which could send Tony Romo into an alternate spot. Romo was the second alternate behind Donovan McNabb, who will get picked to play because either Favre or Drew Brees will lead their team to the Super Bowl this weekend. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers was the third quarterback selected to the original roster.

Don't be surprised if Flozell Adams sneaks onto the roster as well, considering the Saints and Vikings each have an offensive tackles on the current Pro Bowl roster.

Cowboys Stadium keeps getting more state-of-the-art by the day. Now, it will offer new devices to aid hearing-impaired fans.

As the football season was ending, the Dallas Cowboys rolled out a wireless system to provide closed captioning, audio play-by-play and amplified public announcements. Officials with the Houston company that developed the device -- slightly larger than a smart phone -- said it's likely to be the first of its kind for a stadium.

"You can go anywhere in the stadium and stay in tune with the game," said Scott Purcel, the Cowboys' director of broadcasting.

Only 15 days left of the Final Round in Van Heusen Fan's Choice HOF Vote! Make your voice heard by going to fanschoice.com and voting for Emmitt, Haley, and "Too Tall"!