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Cowboys Still A Work In Progress Getting Ready For The Draft

In free agency, Dallas' objective is to fill needs so they can draft the best player as much as possible. So far, the team has gotten part of the job done, but there are still some holes to fill.

There is still a lot of construction underway with the Cowboys' roster.
There is still a lot of construction underway with the Cowboys' roster.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

While other teams make big splashes at the beginning of free agency, that is not the plan used by the Dallas Cowboys. They have developed a strategy of waiting out the first couple of waves of big name signings, then finding players they think can contribute something on the field at a price they feel is reasonable. This can lead to some anxiety for the fans. 2016 is certainly no exception to that. Although the Cowboys have addressed some of their most glaring needs, there is still some serious work to be done in getting the roster for camp together. The draft will provide some of the players needed, but with less than four weeks to go, Dallas likely is still looking to fill some of those needs.

There were four positions that were the most glaring needs going into free agency. Here is a look at where they stand with each, and what may happen next.


The Cowboys have only two contenders to back up Tony RomoKellen Moore and Jameill Showers. Showers is really not considered to be part of the equation. He served primarily as a practice squad/scout quarterback, and only saw action at the end of the season on special teams when he was promoted to the 53-man roster. That leaves Moore as the incumbent at QB2. The staff has repeatedly stated that they are fine with that, a position that has been greeted with skepticism and outright disdain by almost all observers. Given the recent past, the Cowboys are not really looking to find an immediate upgrade as the backup through the draft. They might take a developmental QB, but would be looking down the road. And of course, having the fourth-overall pick means that taking Romo's eventual heir may be more of a desire than settling for a later round QB with a high probability of not making it in the league.

Dallas did have Matt Moore in for an interview, but he elected to return to his old team, the Miami Dolphins. Now the Cowboys will have to either go with Kellen Moore, or try to acquire a veteran backup through other means. They could wait for camp to see who gets cut, but there are a couple of names that have surfaced that might be available before then.

The Houston Texans just re-signed Brandon Weeden, whose days with the Cowboys we all remember with great fondness and affection. The Texans obviously do not feel he was given a fair trial in Dallas, despite the steadily declining numbers he put up before the Cowboys moved on to the admittedly also ineffective Matt Cassel. The retention of Weeden signals that another Houston quarterback may now be available.

Brian Hoyer would, at first glance, be a definite upgrade over Kellen Moore. The question is whether the Cowboys can get him at a price they are willing to pay. They should be leery of giving up much if anything in the way of draft picks. But speaking of leery, they may want to see if the Texans are interested in Ronald Leary. He is a restricted free agent, which means the Cowboys can still deal him. The signing of backup guard/center Joe Looney by the Cowboys makes parting with Leary much more palatable. And offensive guard is seen as one of the more significant needs for the Texans.

There is a similar situation with the Cleveland Browns, where Josh McCown is also likely to be superfluous following the signing there of Robert Griffin III, and the expectation that the Browns will draft a quarterback with the second-overall pick. He would probably be an even better option than Hoyer. Either of the two would also likely be better than whatever castoffs become available as cutdowns come this summer - unless the Cowboys think the Texans and/or Browns will wait until then to part ways with their veteran QBs. That is somewhat riskier, but also would not involve having to part with anything in a trade.

In any case, look for Dallas to continue searching for that veteran backup. He may not be found until just before the season, but the history of the Cowboys argues strongly that they will get someone.

Pass Rush

The options for finding pass rushers in free agency were not great this year. There were few players with much promise of immediate impact, and most of those wound up getting contracts far beyond what the Cowboys were interested in paying. They wound up with two players, DT Cedric Thornton and DE Benson Mayowa. Thornton has a pretty good resume and looks to be a clear upgrade over Nick Hayden. With Terrell McClain, who is returning from a toe injury suffered in the second game of the season, also in the mix, the Cowboys should be able to get better pressure up the middle. Mayowa is more of a project, but one with good athleticism. The Cowboys also talked with Jason Jones, who is still on the market. Another possibility remains in Jack Crawford. He has taken a couple of visits with other teams, but there is no word of him signing elsewhere. Dallas may be working to close the same kind of deal with him they did with James Hanna and Lance Dunbar, both of whom visited other franchises before re-signing with the Cowboys. As with a backup QB, this is still an area of the roster where more developments are likely. It also would seem more like something that could get done before the draft.


This has been the most frustrating position for the Cowboys in free agency. They had Nolan Carroll, Leon Hall, and Patrick Robinson all in. They struck out on all three. It was thought they had a deal with Robinson, but he changed agents and went to the Indianapolis Colts. However, the team has Orlando Scandrick returning from injury and re-signed Morris Claiborne, who had the best year of his career in 2015. With Brandon Carr still under contract, they have the starting positions covered. Signing a new CB was possibly more about having options to deal with Carr's cap hit, but should the team have to roll with his big number this fall, they should still be in decent shape on the field. They also have a couple of promising second-year players in Terrance Mitchell and Deji Olatoye. Something may still develop here, but it is probably on a back burner. Way in back.

Running Back

The signing of Alfred Morris and Dunbar's re-signing probably means that they are fairly comfortable going into the draft. It is expected they will not have a repeat of 2015's failure to take a runner anywhere in the draft, and that would give them four backs, a number they are likely comfortable with.

It still looks like a lot of unfinished business, but there is no time limit on free agency, and of course trades are also something that can happen at any time. The Cowboys have done some important work so far, but it is likely that they still have things they wish to accomplish, whether before the draft or after.

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