It’s already been said many times recently: The Dallas Cowboys have done a great job this offseason. When the season ended against the San Francisco 49ers there was a long list as far as positions that the Cowboys needed to address: wide receiver, cornerback, linebacker just to begin with.
The trades for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks calmed some of these waters and the team bringing back the likes of Leighton Vander Esch and Donovan Wilson (among others) took care of problems before they existed. This is, as many have noted, the optimum way to handle this part of the year particularly with regards to the draft.
It is work like this that leads to an NFL team being able to draft the best available player like the Cowboys did with Zack Martin or CeeDee Lamb (two very solid examples). This is the ideal result of a draft as you don’t want to be painted in a corner to have to take a certain position based on need.
Rewind the clock one year and you will find a Cowboys team in sore need of help at offensive line, defensive end and wide receiver which is why it was no coincidence that they took Tyler Smith, Sam Williams and Jalen Tolbert (obviously that worked out in the first two rounds).
Fortunately the Cowboys are not in that same position this year, but that hardly means that they do not have any needs at all. Here are their top positions of need in order based on the overall temperature of where things stand at the moment.
1. Interior offensive line
Connor McGovern left in free agency which was hardly devastating. While McGovern does not leave behind the most pressing of concerns he was the starter at left guard which means a new one is necessary. The Cowboys spoke last week about how Terence Steele seems to be an option but it is hard to know how much of that chatter is real versus how much is a part of gamesmanship in the lead-up to the draft.
If we live in a world (that many prefer) where Steele is starting at right tackle then Tyron Smith is likely commanding the post over on the left side. Unfortunately it is seemingly an inevitable thing that he will miss some time which means second-year standout Tyler Smith will have to kick outside which puts us where we are right now, wondering about left guard.
Establishing depth along the interior would go a long way towards taking care of both the present and future of the offensive line. If there is a true need that Dallas has it is arguably at the left guard position. Taking a guard in the first round is hardly the best utilization of such a premium resource, but the Cowboys are far enough back in the first round that it is not worth losing sleep over.
If we add one more detail here it is that center Tyler Biadasz is entering a contract year with the team. In a world where Biadasz is playing elsewhere in 2024 it would be nice to not have to replace 40% of the offensive line in one offseason.
2 . Tight end
We have gone back and forth around here as far as discussing the pros and cons of drafting a tight end in the first round. It is objectively true that there is not a lot of precedent for rookies coming in and contributing to a high degree at the position.
But if we are talking about what the Cowboys need then tight end is very clearly at the top of the priority list. Dalton Schultz walked in free agency, also not necessarily a heartbreaker for most Cowboys fans, and while there is a high level of belief in Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot it is still difficult to totally and completely count on them.
There is not a real history of Mike McCarthy using tight ends at a high rate, but if he does envision some sort of West Coast offense then having playmakers available for the aerial attack is a good thing regardless of what their position on the depth chart is.
We discussed this overall topic in the latest video on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel.
As noted, the Stephon Gilmore trade really helped mitigate this issue in the here and now, but he is sort of a one-year rental for the Cowboys. Obviously they could figure something out for 2024 and beyond if they so choose.
The Cowboys do not have a starting outside cornerback (presuming they don’t move DaRon Bland) under contract beyond this season. Gilmore is on the final year of his current deal and Trevon Diggs is on the final year of his rookie contract. It is expected that Dallas will at the very least discuss things with Diggs, but whether or not they get anything done obviously remains to be seen.
The last cornerbacks who Dallas invested serious draft capital in were Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright in the second and third rounds, respectively, two years ago. Neither of those inspire much confidence which means bodies for the future are necessary.
Ideally the Cowboys would have a point of landing beyond the bridge that is Stephon Gilmore, which means they would have to find it in the draft this year.
4. Wide receiver
The argument for wide receiver is almost a carbon copy of the one for cornerback, except the future is a lot less murky.
At some point this offseason the Cowboys will in all likelihood pick up the fifth-year option for CeeDee Lamb. With both Brandin Cooks and Michael Gallup still under contract beyond this season, the heat is hardly high on this position.
But it can change very quickly as we all know. Consider that just two years ago many of us argued that the Cowboys had the best wide receiver group in the NFL with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup in the fold. While only one name is different now there is an ACL tear involved in the time passed since, and a new contract handed out with another one very likely on the way in terms of Lamb. In the time that it takes to blink the state of things can be altered to a significant degree.
5. Running back
The value of running backs is clearly at an all-time low so advocating that one is a need is something that is often a shout lost in the void. To be clear the Cowboys are hardly in desperate need of a running back, but again we are getting as literal as possible here with that word.
We know that Tony Pollard will, having signed his franchise tag, at the very least be playing for the Cowboys this coming season, but what about beyond that? Malik Davis and Rico Dowdle are interesting young names, Ronald Jones is around for a season if that, the future is pretty unknown.
While this hardly spooks the average football fan consider that the Cowboys have had an established lead running back every year running for about a decade now and that is a long time. Nobody is saying the Cowboys have to be who they always have been but for the most part since the dawn of social media the Cowboys have had a preferred ball-carrier and we do not know who that will be next year.
Perhaps you are willing to let next year’s problems be next year’s problems and when it comes to this position I am personally fine with allowing that to happen. But we again spoke of need, and there are needs in different ways in multiple spots.