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3 & Out: Obvious Top Need; 'Hometown Discount'


FRISCO, Texas – Three topics for Cowboys Nation to chew on with free agency now officially underway:

  • The obvious top need on the current roster
  • The next step from within
  • The 'hometown discount'

I Know…
Earl Thomas to Baltimore probably frustrates some fans, but there's a larger immediate need on this roster:

Defensive line. Edge rusher or tackle. Take your pick.

At the Combine last month, Cowboys COO Stephen Jones did say safety depth is a priority. It's possible a free-agent option emerges after this first wave. If not, the draft is always an option. 2018 was the first draft in six years where the team did not select a safety.

The first 'need' position Jones mentioned in Indy, though, was D-Line. It should come as no surprise that their first free-agent add outside the current roster is Christian Covington, the 300-pound veteran who agreed to a one-year deal Thursday.

The rotation of Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins and part-time defensive end Tyrone Crawford needed help. David Irving didn't provide it. Covington will add size and experience.

Now, to the edge. DeMarcus Lawrence is back on the franchise tag, and the club expects to get a long-term deal done at some point, but the timing of his impending shoulder surgery remains to be seen. Randy Gregory's suspension means the Cowboys are currently without 15 percent of their 2018 sack total for an indefinite period of time.

Taco Charlton and Dorance Armstrong could take a step forward next season, but regardless, this is a spot to watch in the coming weeks.

I Think…
it's understandable to want a "splash" in free agency.

I get it. There's merit to re-signing your own first, especially when your drafts churn out Pro Bowlers and All-Pros. But fans want to accessorize. They want a new, proven face, someone who offers tangible transformative proof that the 2019 Cowboys can and should improve on the 2018 version. I don't fault fans for thinking that way.

This must be noted, though: if a team that can advance largely from within, it's this one.

Eleven projected starters -- including nickel cornerback Anthony Brown, who played more than two-thirds of the defensive snaps last year – will be 25 or younger when the season starts. La'el Collins will have just turned 26. Antwaun Woods is 26. Lawrence will be 27.

This isn't a veteran team inches from its ceiling. But…

The key for the players is using last season as confidence and fuel. So much good experience gained from 3-5 to the division title. So much motivation from falling short in the second round. The key for the coaches is getting the absolute best out of this young group.

I Have No Idea…
how the term "hometown discount" got so popular.

Sure, some guys take a little less to stay or sign with a team. It has happened before. It doesn't happen all that often.

The Cowboys wanted to keep Cole Beasley. They tried to keep Beasley. He wasn't opposed to a return, but he took the best offer from Buffalo.

Earl-Thomas-to-Dallas rumors filled a lot of newspaper/web space for many, many months. He did grow up in Texas. He did hint at affection for America's Team. He ultimately took the best deal he could get from Baltimore – and really, the Cowboys were never major players anyway.

Both men will turn 30 in the next two months. Both had probably their last best chance at a big contract. Same with DeMarco Murray back in 2015 when he bolted for Philly.

Athletes have a very small window to maximize their earning potential and set themselves up nicely for the rest of their lives. No one can fault a guy for seeking the best possible contract. And you can't fault the Cowboys for setting financial limits based on age and injury history. It's a business on both sides. No hard feelings.