FRISCO, Texas – A major box got checked when DeMarcus Lawrence signed on the dotted line last week.
The Cowboys had spent the past few weeks meticulously addressing their roster: re-signing players (Tavon Austin, Cameron Fleming, L.P. Ladouceur, among others), replacing departures with sensible deals (Randall Cobb for Cole Beasley), and making a bold trade for a proven pass rusher (a future sixth-rounder to Miami for Robert Quinn).
The Lawrence deal was the major hurdle, though. Avoiding a second consecutive franchise tag with the two-time Pro Bowl pass rusher – and Lawrence subsequently getting necessary shoulder surgery a full five months before the season starts – should be viewed as a significant win for both sides.
So, what's left on the offseason to-do list?
"The draft, having a successful draft," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said last Tuesday. "If we can do that, then we can say we had a successful offseason.
"But as we said, it doesn't mean we're through. We're always open-minded to improving our roster. I always like to say it's 365 days a year you're into player acquisitions, so we'll continue to look for ways to improve. But obviously the last piece, our big priority, is to check the boxes to go out and have a successful draft now."
The Cowboys have six picks in this year's draft, albeit without the first-rounder that went to Oakland for wide receiver Amari Cooper last fall. Following a traditional offseason plan, they've used free agency as a tool to protect themselves against reaching for prospects. George Iloka gives them depth and additional competition at safety. Kerry Hyder and Christian Covington help the numbers at defensive tackle.
Cobb offsets Beasley's move to Buffalo, and Quinn eases the impact of Randy Gregory's indefinite NFL suspension, but both players are also proven difference makers.
With those additions in mind, Jones stopped short of agreeing with the notion that the front office has taken a more aggressive approach this particular offseason.
"That's hard for me to say," Jones said. "We made a run at Cole with money and when we didn't use that money on Cole then we had it to use on another player and certainly did that.
"And we did know that we needed to shore up the defensive line, especially with the issues that we have with Randy and then also David Irving (not re-signed). We knew we needed some help there and would like to go into the draft having been able to think that we can pick the best player available and not get into really, even though you say you're going to, thinking about what your needs are."
There aren't many true 'needs' left. That's why the draft is the next major offseason milestone.