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Draft Notes: QB Interest, Pass Rush & Trades


FRISCO, Texas – It's speculation season.

The 2020 NFL Draft is less than a week away, which predictably means that it's the time of year for rampant speculation. Whether it's coming from anonymous executives, scouts or media members, the entire NFL landscape is abuzz with possibilities about what might happen next weekend.

Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones touched on several possibilities surrounding the Cowboys on Friday, as he made an appearance on 105.3 FM The Fan in Dallas. From trade scenarios to pick possibilities, he covered a fair amount of ground in a short amount of time.

Here are some highlights:

  • The Cowboys may be doing homework on quarterback prospects, but it doesn't have anything to do with Dak Prescott or his contract negotiations, to hear it from Jones. Fans and media alike were abuzz with intrigue last week when the Cowboys released video of a virtual draft interview with Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Many speculated their intent was to put Prescott on notice, though Jones said that was far from the case.

"I think you're going down the wrong path when you equate it to Dak's situation, his contract situation," Jones said. "I don't think it equates to what we're looking at there."

Any interest in this year's quarterback class is much more likely to be about the future. Cooper Rush is playing on a one-year contract, and Jones cited the importance of trying to develop a quarterback, noting that the Green Bay quarterbacks often drafted developmental prospects when new head coach Mike McCarthy was with the Packers.

"Obviously, we've had Cooper Rush around here, going into his fourth season," Jones said. "He'll be free next year, so we're always looking to have a good backup situation – especially if it's a young player who can develop, and all of a sudden you have a serious resource if you're able to develop a good, young quarterback."

  • There's been similar buzz about the Cowboys' needs at linebacker, largely due to the team's conference call with Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. Leighton Vander Esch is coming off a troubling neck injury, while Sean Lee and Joe Thomas signed one-year deals this offseason. Those issues have prompted many to wonder whether the Cowboys feel a sense of urgency to address the linebacker position – potentially as early as the first round.

"That would be news for me, in terms of a heightened need for the linebacking position," Jones said.

  • Instead, Jones touched on his excitement for the possibility of a more versatile defense under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. The Cowboys employed a very traditional 4-3 scheme under Rod Marinelli for much of the past decade, relying on four down linemen to generate the vast majority of their defensive pressure.

With Nolan in charge, it sounds like the Cowboys could rely on multiple different fronts and looks – including using strong side linebackers and DPRs (Designated Pass Rushers) to contribute in specific situations.

"With guys like Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory, they're long guys that can rush the passer from that outside spot – we call it a SAM/DPR role, where traditionally with Rod we used the 4-3 and the typical defensive ends with guys like DeMarcus Lawrence and Quinn," Jones said. "But I do think you could see some situations there where you are looking at a pass rusher type, that can rush the passer from more of a SAM/DPR position."

  • Jones was also asked about weighing this year's crop of prospects against the possibility of trading for a veteran. The Cowboys are often linked to big-name trade proposals, and this year is no different. Earl Thomas was linked to the organization for a long time, and the current scrutiny surrounds New York Jets safety Jamal Adams.

For obvious reasons, Jones didn't speak in specifics. But he did talk about the need to be adaptable when considering proposals.

"I think you have to be open at all times to improving your football team," he said. "I've been a staunch supporter that player acquisition is 365 days a year, and I think that goes for veterans, UFAs, trades, etc. You have to be willing to be flexible and be able to drop what you're doing and take a long hard look at a player or a situation if it arises."