The 2016 offseason is ginormous for the Dallas Cowboys. With some great spots in the draft and some free agent cash, this organization can really do some damage over the next few months. With great power comes great responsibility and fortunately for the Cowboys that responsibility has been given to Stephen Jones and Will McClay over the last few years. Quality draft picks and low-risk free agent signings have become the staple of offseason acquisitions for this team lately. Of course, that's with limited cash and lower draft position. Things are a little different now.
Looking at free agency and the draft, there are three decisions that will loom large in whether or not the Cowboys can get back on the fast-track to success. And these decisions are:
- Pick number 4
- A big-money free agent signing
- Pick number 34
Yes, there will be other moves that are meaningful, but these three are the biggest. And the Cowboys could decide to move around in the draft or pass on a big free agent signing, but as it stands now - these are the options that are on the table. There are a lot of different ways the team can go when it comes to these choices. For the sake of this experiment, I want to examine some different combinations and see which mixture of talent would strengthen the team the most. Here are the three different groups.
GROUP A - Pick Number Four
We don't know the direction the Cowboys are going with their first pick, but with the fourth pick in the draft - it's going to be something good. All of these players are big time play makers. The defenders on this list are the best players at their respective positions and are all ranked near where the Cowboys will be picking. If the Cowboys go offense, they could select their quarterback of the future or the most talented running back in the draft.
GROUP B - The Big $$ Free Agent
Now while the players in the first group stand a good chance of being options for the Cowboys, guessing who they take in free agency is going to be much more challenging. On the assumption that Dallas throws some cash at one of the star free agents, where should the money go? And if you happen to like Janoris Jenkins more than Trumaine Johnson, fine. Or maybe you want Doug Martin more than Lamar Miller. No problem. Those choices are interchangeable for this experiment. Just pick the position group that you prefer.
GROUP C - Pick Number 34
It is going to be a test of patience for the Cowboys war room to sit and wait from early in day one until their day two pick. They will be observing great players, high on their board, still lingering around. They're going to want to bite and get in on all those great first-round talents still available, but if the Cowboys can just be calm and wait it out, they should find some very appealing choices at 34. The Cowboys can reap the benefits of the first round mistakes and take advantage of some of the "I can't believe he fell to round two!" guys. So if you're looking at this and see a player that you think there is no way he makes it - good. That is by design. Make no mistake about it - some really good players will fall.
So if you can pick one player from each group, what combination do you think would improve the Cowboys the most?
Here is my combo:
Talking with my colleague Joey Ickes recently, he mentioned that he sees the number four pick as bonus pick. Since many of us expected to be picking much later in the round, the early picks in the following rounds are close to those picks. So, pick number four is the pick none of us expected. That takes a little bit of the pressure off, so I'm rolling with a star at one of the offensive skill positions. Some may prefer to look later in the draft for a running back, but it's like the Cowboys have an opportunity to get a Todd Gurley talent without having to trade away other draft picks to get him. Can you imagine a player as talented as Ezekiel Elliott running behind this offensive line? I did and I loved it.
While Olivier Vernon may be too expensive for the Cowboys, I am all-in on spending some good cash on strong free agent pass rusher. Robert Ayers is a guy I like, but investing funds to give the team a talent on the edge is a big win for this team. Talented defensive ends give good returns on their investment, so while it's a lot of money - it should be money well spent.
The second round draft pick is going to be like a birthday present. You'll have no idea what it is until you open it up. I think the Cowboys would score big if one of the top four cornerbacks made it to them in the second round. While Jalen Ramsey, Mackensie Alexander, and Vernon Hargreaves III are projected to be gone by pick 20, the last of the good ones might fall. While interceptions are synonymous with the name Eli, I'd love to see an Eli pick continue to cause Cowboys fans great satisfaction for years to come.
Those are my choices. What combination would you choose?