How Free Agency Has Helped The Cowboys' Draft Flexibility To This Point

IRVING, Texas – Although the Cowboys continue to explore the free agent market, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones believes the team has put itself in good position – through retaining their own players and through free agent signings outside the organization – to draft best player available a month from now.

That said, Jones acknowledged the team could be able to draft based on "position preference" depending on how things break in front of them.

"You could have some position preference really there in the draft," Jones said last week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. "Well, you might say, 'It looks to me like you're trying to fill a need right now, too.' Well, those position preferences probably are areas of quarterback, pressure player and corner. You might go a position preference over one that's higher on the board. You might do that.

"But have you done enough with the roster here that you can pass on a player in especially those early rounds? The answer is yes."

To Jones' point, it's possible all three of the above-mentioned positions would be worthy of consideration at No. 4. All three positions have been well-documented as potential draft targets. The Cowboys held official visits with several free agent cornerbacks since the New League Year began. They have signed two defensive linemen in free agency; now they're set to visit with free agent defensive end Jason Jones. The prospect of drafting a developmental quarterback has been, without question, the hottest offseason Cowboys topic of conversation outside Valley Ranch.

Speaking to local reporters for a half-hour in between league meetings last week, Jones didn't pigeon-hole his team as desperate to fill those spots early in the draft. He didn't think cornerback was an early-round must. Same with pass rusher, because this year's draft class has "depth in the defensive line."

Jones also reiterated his stance on quarterback: a solid backup is needed behind Tony Romo, but the team's confidence that their veteran starter will play several more years means quarterback isn't a have-to at No. 4.

"It's not that there is not a need for us for a young future quarterback," Jones said. "But what I did say is that the decision will be made with the idea in mind that Romo is going to be your quarterback for four or five years. That begs a lot of consideration then relative to what should you be doing with draft picks as opposed to a backup quarterback."

Again, a month before the draft, Jones publicly isn't ruling anything out. But he does feel the team has moved toward accomplishing what it sets out to do each March: covering their bases in free agency so they can draft best available in April.

"That's always your objective," head coach Jason Garrett said. "You want to go into the draft as cleanly as you can in regards to your needs. You don't want to be a team that's sitting there saying, 'Boy, we've got to take this guy because he plays this position.' Free agency allows you to do that."

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