INDIANAPOLIS** – The Cowboys may not have the cap space to land Jason Hatcher in free agency, but head coach Jason Garrett hasn't given up hope.
Hatcher finished the 2013 season with a career-high and team-leading 11 sacks for the Cowboys, and Garrett said he wants the Cowboys to be there for him "once the business of the NFL starts with free agency."
"We'll just have to see how that plays out," Garrett said. "We love Jason Hatcher. We felt like he had an outstanding year for us this year, really took to this 4-3 style of defense we are playing and just did a great job."
Hatcher was one of two projected defensive line starters to actually end up starting the season. Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff were both physically unable to play. The other, DeMarcus Ware, ended up missing the first three games of his career in 2013. Hatcher played in 15 games and finished with 6.5 more sacks than he had in any previous season.
"He emerged as a leader on our football team both in his actions on and off the field, and his production was outstanding," Garrett said. "He was as consistently as productive a player as we have on our football team, a guy on our team that everyone really rallied around."
The defensive line will likely be a focus in the draft and free agency for the Cowboys as Hatcher and Spencer enter free agency. In addition, Ware's coming off a career-low in sacks.
"We're going to evaluate the players we have, the players who are available to us based on their health and make the necessary decisions," Garrett said. "We have to get better on defense. There's no question about that. I think everyone understands that when you play a 4-3 style of defense, it starts up front. Really when you play any style of defense, it starts up front."
*Romo Rehab *
Scott Linehan and Tony Romo have met and had conversations about the season, but most of Romo's time is going into fixing his back.
Garrett said since players and coaches can't have formal meetings yet, talks between Romo and his offensive coaches have been limited. Romo's time is spent on rehab, while the majority of Linehan's time is spent with the offensive staff.
Both Garrett and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Romo looks like he's moving well, and Garrett complimented the quarterback's mindset in his rehab.
"Tony had the surgery four or five days after the Washington game and we feel like the surgery went well, and he's really spending a lot of his time rehabbing his back and getting himself right," Garrett said. "We are anticipating him to be able to be back for the spring and to be able to be involved in a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and our on the field work." [embedded_ad]
Gruden On Phillips
New Redskins head coach Jay Gruden hopes Wes Phillips' experience with one of the league's greatest tight ends can help his group in Washington.
Phillips had been on the Cowboys staff since 2007 and last season was his first as the team's tight ends coach. The Cowboys picked up former Giants coach Mike Pope to coach tight ends after Phillips went to Washington.
"I like Wes," Gruden said. "Wes is obviously a good, experienced coach of one of the great tight ends in the NFL, Jason Witten. I like to pick his brain about how he taught him and bring that experience with him from Dallas. To coach Jordan Reed and [Logan] Paulsen, I think, will be a big benefit to those guys."
Gruden also commented on his evaluation of the tight ends at the NFL Combine and said it's a tough position to evaluate because of all the spread offenses in college.
Are they good enough to be split outside all the time to create the mismatches that you want? There are a lot of characteristics in a tight end that can bring different things to your team," Gruden said. "You just don't want to be one-dimensional, to just be a pass-catcher or just be a blocker. It would be nice to have some characteristics of each category to make yourself a complete tight end. Unfortunately, not everybody has those."