As tired as we may all be of the debate over franchising Anthony Spencer or a proper contract for Laurent Robinson, it could be worse. A year ago at this time, every NFL-related conversation was clouded by the looming lockout.
With no labor agreement in place, there was no formal offseason training program or Organized Team Activities (OTAs). It wasn't even kosher for coaches to speak to the players about anything football related.
This being a year-round business, Jason Garrett has already expressed how happy he is that his second offseason as the Cowboys' head coach will include some measure of normalcy.
There's more to it than just the ability to contact players, though. This year will be much easier than last year in terms of planning the offseason moves, because free agency will come before the draft, as it always high prior to 2011.
"I think that will impact things a little bit as to how teams this about this offseason and player acquisition," Garrett said. "But I think in general, how we approach the draft and our evaluation will be pretty similar to how it's been in the past."
Heading into the 2011 draft, Stephen Jones said he thought the order of the offseason would prompt teams to follow their draft board even more rigidly, maximizing the importance of selecting the best player available, since it wasn't obvious which needs free agency would fill.
But last year when the Cowboys selected Tyron Smith, for instance, the team had no way to know for certain if a new contract could be worked out with free agent tackle Doug Free, which may or may not have affected the decision-making process leading up to the draft.
In any event, Garrett and the Cowboys are glad to have things back in a more familiar order.
"I think if you ask anybody around the league, what you probably want to do on draft day is draft the best players available rather than having to draft for need," Garrett said. "I think you probably draft more purely if you do that. Having free agency prior to the draft kind of allows teams to be able to address some of the needs before draft day.
"So again, it's been this way for a long, long time. Last year was the exception. I think everybody felt comfortable getting it back to the way it's always been."