FRISCO, Texas – It's officially draft season.
Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones, chief operating officer Stephen Jones and head coach Jason Garrett took a break from draft meetings Wednesday for their annual press conference here at The Star. Some highlights from the 45-minute session:
- Jerry Jones is torn. He acknowledged Wednesday that it's "no fun" drafting without a first-round pick this year, but he's also thrilled that Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper is on the roster now and most likely for many years to come. Cooper, of course, pushed Dallas toward the NFC East title after arriving via trade with the Raiders last October. The Cowboys plan to extend Cooper's contract beyond 2019. "I want both," Jones said with a laugh. "I want Amari and I want our first-round pick."
- Arguably the Cowboys' biggest remaining need is at running back, which feels strange to say given Ezekiel Elliott's presence on the roster. But without much in the way of depth behind him, the front office has made it clear that finding a quality backup is a priority. The question is, how big of a priority. Stephen Jones was asked Wednesday if a second-round pick would be too rich to spend on a backup. "It's certainly a rich pick. You hope you're drafting, there in the second round, a plug-in starter," he said. "That's what you hope to do. It doesn't always work out that way, but you're hoping to find a player there in the second round that can step in and make a big difference." Having said that, Jones allowed that the position could become pretty important if Elliott misses time for any reason. "We all know, if Zeke's healthy, there's not going to be a whole lot of touches going to that player," he said. "At the same time, you never know when you're going to need a player like that if Zeke were to miss a game."
- Speaking of Elliott, Stephen Jones confirmed that the Cowboys will indeed pick up the fifth-year option on Elliott's rookie contract. That's obviously no surprise. It will keep Elliott under contract through 2020 while the club looks at a possible extension for the NFL's rushing champ.
- With several free agent signings and the recent trade for defensive end Robert Quinn, the Cowboys believe they've positioned themselves to a take a 'best player available (BPA)' philosophy heading into the draft. Garrett pointed out that the evaluation process can be skewed when a team enters the draft with glaring roster needs because there's a tendency to overrate prospects. That won't be the case here.
- Stephen Jones said the safety position isn't considered a major priority – the team did sign veteran George Iloka in free agency – but it can't be ruled out if the Cowboys find value at some point on draft weekend. "Obviously we've looked at playmaking safeties and haven't been able to get deals done," Jones said. "If we see the right guy there at the right price and he does all the things as Jason mentioned – versatility's a big part of it. If you find the right player at that position then it certainly warrants not only a high pick but it can warrant big contracts."
- One non-draft item: Three years ago the Cowboys struck gold in the fourth round with quarterback Dak Prescott, and it's no secret the Cowboys would like to sign Prescott long-term. But Stephen Jones says Russell Wilson's recent extension with Seattle (a reported $140 million over four years) doesn't create urgency to get a deal done faster. "I don't feel any pressure to rush the situation," Jones said. "This is an important contract for Dak. It's an important contract for our organization. We have to get it right, and I feel like we'll do that."