The Dallas Cowboys have a plan. Free agency is only a week old, but plenty of things have happened as the team prepares for the upcoming season. As expected, the team is wading carefully through the waters of free agency as they attempt to fill voids, but some areas have received more attention than others. They still have April’s draft to help bolster the roster, but could their actions in free agency give us any clues to who might be chosen with the team’s top draft pick? Maybe. Maybe not, but here are three possibilities that could explain where the front office’s mind is at.
Off-ball linebacker? No thank you
One of the first names to be tied to the Cowboys at pick 24 was Georgia linebacker, Nakobe Dean. Utah’s Devin Lloyd had been projected to be the first linebacker to come off the board somewhere in the teens with Dean possibly being there when the Cowboys were up. While it’s anyone’s guess which one of these guys will be taken first, the thought of selecting one of the top collegiate linebackers in the nation to pair with the edge-rushing moonlighter Micah Parsons was very enticing and could instantly improve the LB unit, but is that really the best use for this pick?
It may appear that the Cowboys don’t think so. They have re-signed Leighton Vander Esch to a one-year deal and are retaining part-time LB/special teamer Luke Gifford. Now, this in no way solidifies the linebacker group, but when you throw in a healthy Jabril Cox and some reps from Parsons, the team isn’t sitting in dire shape at the position.
The Cowboys would be better served to go after a linebacker in Day 2. What if Alabama’s Christian Harris starts sliding in round two? The Cowboys could package some of their many fifth-round picks to move up in the second to get him. Or they could just be patient and take one of the other Georgia linebackers or Wyoming’s Chad Muma. Throw one of those rookies in there and the Cowboys linebacker group would have some fresh chasers roaming around.
Fix the OLine, dagnabbit!
While their moves have been far from sexy, the team has at least covered many different areas on their roster. There are still improvements to be made, but they are building up that floor for each position group so they don’t go into the draft will huge needs...with one lone exception - the offensive line.
The Cowboys have actually gotten weaker along the offensive line after releasing veteran right tackle La’el Collins. They also lost Connor Williams to the Miami Dolphins, so they have no starting left guard (unless you count Connor McGovern) and no swing tackle (unless you count Josh Ball). That’s a problem.
If you look at the consensus board from NFL Mock Draft Database, there are four offensive linemen who could be in play for the Cowboys with pick 24. They are Tyler Linderbaum, Trevon Penning, Kenyon Green, and Zion Johnson.
The Cowboys may look at the talent layout in this draft and determine that one of those guys stands a great chance to be there when they are up. While they never want to box them into a corner to where they have to take an offensive lineman, the team may already know who they love, and if it’s a few of these guys, there stands a great chance to add a Day 1 starter to their unit.
We’ll take him if he’s there!
While it’s great to have a plan, things don’t always work out accordingly. If the Cowboys are eyeballing one of the top offensive linemen in the draft and one makes it, great! But what happens if all the guys they like are gone?
Well, in that scenario that means talent from another position would slide to them. If a wave of the top blockers comes off the board, then it could mean a top wide receiver is still available. A similar thing happened a couple of years ago that gifted the Cowboys CeeDee Lamb. Who is your favorite WR from this draft class? Drake London? Treylon Burks? One of the Ohio State guys? Would you want him if he’s there?
And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a receiver. Maybe one of the top edge rushers makes it to Dallas. Depending on how things play out in the first round, a guy like Jermaine Johnson or George Karlaftis could potentially be there at 24. Do either of them interest you?
The Cowboys have hedged their bets at both these positions. At wide receiver, they may have lost Amari Cooper, but they re-signed Michael Gallup and added outside free agent James Washington, who was selected 21 spots ahead of Gallup in the 2018 Draft. And at defensive end, the team fumbled away Randy Gregory but managed to keep DeMarcus Lawrence at a discount. They also re-signed Dorance Armstrong and added outside free agent Dante Fowler.
While the Cowboys aren’t starving for receiving or edge-rushing help, they shouldn’t be turning a blind eye if a great one falls in their lap.
After the first week of free agency, where do you think that first-round draft pick might go?