INDIANAPOLIS – The week of the combine has always been about much more than just scouting the next wave of players.
It's also a chance to catch up with the decision-makers of each team.
Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones met with reporters on Tuesday in Indy, and spoke about a variety of topics from the new coaching staff, to possible franchise-tag options, to Dak's contract and the future of the offensive line, plus much more.
- Being at the combine and getting a chance to look at this year's talent is a good chance for the Cowboys to be reflective, especially just a year ago when they drafted Tyler Smith in the first round. Stephen Jones said he didn't think "it could've gone any better" when asked about Smith's first year. "It was outstanding. He loves the game. He wants to be great. He's in a great room with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin. What more can you ask (for)? He's young and versatile. Obviously (we're) fired up about his future."
- The reason Tyler Smith played most of the year at left tackle is because of Tyron Smith's hamstring injury that sidelined him until the final month of the season. Jones was asked about Smith's future with the team and if there have been discussions with him. "We really haven't yet. We're just getting our hands around the best way for us to move forward. Obviously, Tyron is the ultimate team player. There's really not a lot of conversation with Tyron. It seems like he's very content to do what it takes to help the team." Jones said "yes" when asked if he expects Smith back for 2023 and that the team is "comfortable" with his contract situation.
- After playing multiple positions as a rookie, there's no commitment to keep Tyler Smith in one single position entering his second season. The "best five" conversation is alive and well even with questions around Tyron Smith's future. "Tyler Smith is versatile. That's what you want in every offensive lineman if you can have it," Jones said. "Tyron Smith showed he was versatile. It's a good feeling that [Tyler] can bump down and play left guard." Jones continued to reiterate how much playing team football and doing what is best for the organization is valued by the front office.
- Staying with the tackle spot, Terence Steele is "ahead of schedule" in terms of his rehab from the ACL injury he sustained in early December. He's also a restricted free agent and the Cowboys will have to make a decision on his future and the exact tender he receives. "We've got some decisions on what we'll tender Terence. Obviously, he's doing unbelievable with this rehab. He's done as well as anyone that we've ever had in terms of his rehab and his diligence. We don't expect any hiccups there. I do know, he's ahead of schedule." Jones said he "absolutely" expects Steele ready for training camp in late July.
- Jones also said Pollard is doing well in his rehab after surgery on his ankle. The big question with Pollard is if he gets the franchise tag of $10.1 million. Jones wouldn't go there, but did say the Cowboys will likely use the tag on someone. "It's not out of the question, but we haven't determined whether we'll do that or not," Jones said of tagging Pollard. "More than likely we'll use our tag. Not necessarily on Tony, but we'll use our tag."
- Jones said he plans on meeting with Pollard's agent this week at the combine to begin the contract discussions. He also said they will likely visit with most of the representatives of their unrestricted free agents, which include Leighton Vander Esch, Dalton Schultz and Donovan Wilson.
- Tough decisions are on the horizon for some big names within the organization, including Ezekiel Elliott. When asked about the commitment within the organization on Zeke's future, Stephen remained non-descript but instead was reflective on past decisions the organization has made with players like Emmitt Smith and DeMarcus Ware. "You always lose sleep at night before you do it," Jones said. "Because you wonder if you're doing the right thing. These are great competitors. You always second guess yourself when you're letting go of those types of players."
- Stephen Jones was asked again about Mike McCarthy calling the plays this year. Jones said McCarthy initiated the conversation. "In his mind, we can be better. Not that Kellen didn't (get the job done). But we have to take the next step."
- Staying with the coaches, one of the new assistant position coaches is Jeff Blasko, who is not only the running backs coach but the run-game coordinator. Jones said he believes Blasko can help with the overall structure of the offense. "He's able to have his own position, which I think he deserves. I think some of his duties will help Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer and Mike help mirror the run game to the pass game."
- With Schottenheimer as the new offensive coordinator and Scott Tolzien taking over as the QB coach, the question was asked to Jones if Dak needed a "new voice" in his ear. "I think it always helps to improve. I don't want to speak for Dak. I've always said, when you're around smart people, you get to a certain level with someone, and I think change can be really good. I think we think we can take the next step and be better football team with some new voices."
- As for Dak's contract situation, Jones didn't get into the detail of a possible extension, something that would obviously help the Cowboys in the short-term because it would lower his current salary-cap hit. But Jones said there hasn't been any recent dialogue with the team and Dak's agent. "No we haven't. I don't know. I bet there's not going to be a lot said about it. We'll wake up one day and it'll be done. We've got a plan. Doesn't always help you to divulge your plan."
- Dallas is not discounting out taking a running back at the 26th selection in the first round. "Normally we've said we have 18 to 20 first rounders on your board," Jones said. "Usually when you're picking 26 you're pretty lucky if there's still a first rounder left on your board." If the right guy was available for the Cowboys when their first selection comes around, there shouldn't be any hesitation even if it's in a position of lower draft value.