IRVING, Texas – Nine days before the NFL Draft, it's clear the Cowboys could go in several directions with the fourth overall pick and the rest of their draft selections. But executive vice president Stephen Jones acknowledges pass rush remains a need on a reworked defensive line.
"You try to work in free agency to really get your team to where you don't have just an obvious need. That's what we've tried to do," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan. "But I think at the end of the day our defensive front is still a position that we keep our eye on in terms of always trying to get better there and ultimately find a dominant type of pass rusher. Obviously that's easier said than done."
The Cowboys entered free agency in March with only four linemen under contract who played significant snaps last season: Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and David Irving. Gregory, last year's second-round pick, will begin the 2016 regular season on a four-game NFL suspension.
The team improved its defensive end depth by re-signing Jack Crawford to a one-year contract and signing restricted free agent Benson Mayowa to a three-year deal. DeMarcus Lawrence, last year's starting right end, is coming off January back surgery but will return healthy to build on a team- and career-high eight sacks.
Jones said the team wouldn't rule out a defensive tackle in the draft because Tyrone Crawford, the starting three-technique defensive tackle, is versatile enough to play some defensive end in Rod Marinelli's rotation if needed. The Cowboys signed Cedric Thornton to a four-year deal in March as a starting candidate, presumably alongside Crawford.
But as for a pure edge rusher, the Cowboys will likely keep their eyes open on draft weekend – if not at No. 4, then down the line in what's considered a pretty deep defensive line class.