BOCA RATON, Fla. – Among the Cowboys' areas of need, defensive line just might top the list.
The team entered free agency with four starters/key rotation players entering the market. None have been re-signed to this point, which means only four linemen who played significant snaps last season are currently under contract: Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and David Irving. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes a deep rotation, and in the last 10 days the Cowboys have attempted to rebuild the line.
The first move was signing veteran defensive tackle Cedric Thornton to a four-year deal worth a reported $18 million to likely start alongside Crawford. But versatility is key in Marinelli's defense, and Thornton has it.
"Like the way he plays the game," executive vice president Stephen Jones said from the 2016 NFL Annual Meeting here in Boca Raton. "Watching his tape, he's a relentless guy. A lot of skill in his movements, and the way he plays the game we think fits with what we can do with Rod, what he can do in our system.
"He's a guy who can probably play three positions. He can play the nose, he can play the under tackle and can switch out there and play some left end if need be. But probably for us he'll be more of a nose/under tackle."
Last Friday the Cowboys also signed restricted free agent Benson Mayowa to an offer sheet for a reported three years and worth over $8 million. The Raiders, Mayowa's team for the last two seasons, have the right to match the deal until Wednesday.
Mayowa, 24, has appeared in 30 career games with the Seahawks and Raiders, including three starts in Oakland. At 6-3, 240 pounds, the 24-year-old could be a nice addition to the group as a pressure player off the edge.