Whenever an NFL front office discusses their draft plans, you always have to be a little suspect of what they say. It’s a time of subterfuge and smokescreens meant to keep their plans a secret. Although with the Cowboys, and the Joneses in particular, that’s not always true. Sometimes they tend to say things that track very closely to the truth. They have the curse of not being able to remain silent in some cases.
So when Stephen Jones was talking about their draft plans when it came to linebackers, he said some things that make you wonder if they really are interested in a linebacker in the first round. Here’s the quote:
“We could add a couple of [linebackers] here in the draft,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “We have 10 draft picks and certainly look to do something there if the right guy is sitting there. We made moves we feel good about. We feel like we could go to work and put the right guys out there and get the job done. But the great news is we do have 10 draft picks, and I do think obviously as we work our way through the draft, I don’t know what level will be taken, but there are some really good linebackers out there throughout the draft that I think could step in and contribute quickly whether that’s in a backup role, or on special teams, but would be linebackers you’d love to have on your football team.”
That portion in bold was done by me, and is the part that makes you wonder. Nothing about that screams first round. In fact, you could read it as more of a “in the middle-to-later-rounds” plan. A first-round linebacker would be expected to do more than special teams, and he may even compete to start over Jaylon Smith. Jones doesn’t seem to think that is going to happen. He goes on to praise Smith and Damien Wilson.
“I think we did a little bit there with Joe Thomas to help us out, but at the end of the day one of the things I’m really optimistic about is I think Jaylon is going to take another step,” Jones said. “He had to focus on playing the game last year. Put the rehab aside for the moment, as he should, and he went to work, tried to help us win football games and did an unbelievable job. He’s going to take a big step this year. He already is, and I think he’s going to improve tremendously. I think he’s going to do an outstanding job for us.
“One of the things we’ll be looking for is to add depth at that linebacker spot. But as far as lining up day 1 and feeling good, who’s going to be manning those positions at our linebacking corps, we feel good about it. We’re excited about getting Damien in there, having him in the mix.”
[Again, my bold added]
Of course Jones is going to praise his own players, and he’s going to push Jaylon Smith as a guy who can make a leap forward. It’s only natural for a front office to do that. At the same time, if you had to make a decision one way or the other based on the previous quotes, I’d have to say they don’t think linebacker is a priority need.
We’ll find out in a couple of hours.