1st Pick Must Contribute In Some Manner

free agency they immediately signed San Diego starter Igor Olshansky. Knowing Zach Thomas wouldn't be coming back, they covered themselves at his weak inside linebacker spot by signing free-agent linebacker Keith Brooking. After releasing safety Roy Williams and knowing they would not address free agent Keith Davis until after the draft, they signed Jacksonville free-agent starter Gerald Sensabaugh. And after cutting ties with backup quarterback Brad Johnson, they traded for Detroit veteran Jon Kitna, basically giving up a guy they were going to release, Anthony Henry, for a guy the Lions were going to cut.

And the beauty of those free-agent signings is this: The Cowboys didn't pay any of those guys the type of money that prohibits a draft choice from taking over the starting job if capable. Meaning, the money trail doesn't preclude one of a potential 11 draft choices from winning a starting job.

Now as Stephen Jones said, when asked if any of their upcoming draft choices could win a starting job, "Possibly, absolutely. But is it probable? It's going to be difficult."

So in other words, the Cowboys can follow their board, something they spend millions of dollars to put together when you consider all the time and money spent sending scouts on the road; attending the NFL combine; and going to all these hotshots' individual workouts, not to mention the individual man hours spent poring over tape of prospective draft choices.

Talking to those guys in the scouting department, this is music to their ears, a pure draft, heading in without preconceived notions, something the Cowboys have been doing over the past couple of years and especially last year. Here is the work we've done, now pick the best guy still available no matter position - within reasonable need - and then let, as Jerry called it, "motor," health and character become the viable tiebreakers.

To me, the bottom line to the Cowboys' second-round pick becomes, and paying keen attention to what Stephen Jones had to say on Thursday, is finding a player with a dimension that gets him on the field, somehow, someway since the percentages are against that guy starting from Day One his rookie year. Just something. Contribute on the nickel. Contribute on special teams. Have a role in a changeup defense. Maybe challenge to become one of those seven or eight active offensive linemen on game day.

Kind of get the picture?

Say they draft a safety. Well, it won't be shameful if the guy is not starting. He's going to have to be mighty impressive to initially beat out Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh. But maybe the guy plays on special teams and the nickel. Good enough for now.

Say you draft an outside linebacker, one of those pressure guys, a defensive end making the conversion to outside linebacker in a 3-4. So maybe every now and then he can put his hand down at end on the nickel. Or you move the guy around on the dime. Or what if he's a versatile Kevin Burnett guy capable of playing in the middle on the nickel? And you have another special teams player.

Say you draft an offensive lineman. The Cowboys could use an offensive tackle they're willing to sink their teeth into as a backup to Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo on game day. Or it's an inside guy, one who can battle Cory Procter for the backup center/guard spot who some day might take over for Kyle Kosier and prevent the Cowboys from spending more big bucks in free agency for another starter at guard or even center when it becomes time for Andre Gurode, entering his eighth season by the way, to move on.

Say you draft a defensive end or nose tackle. That guy at least can battle for rotation time with a few guys who really need to step up this year, guys such as Jason Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and for now nose tackle Junior Siavii. The Cowboys regularly play six defensive linemen.

Or as so many seem sold on, say you draft a wide receiver, meaning you would have spent your first three draft choices this year on the same position since the first and third went for Roy Williams. Ah, but will that guy jump ahead of the three guys in which you have invested time, Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, Isaiah Stanback? What if

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