FRISCO, Texas – The most important stretch of the season begins on Sunday night for the Cowboys, but the big picture is always a popular topic in the NFL.
With that in mind, it's understandable that team owner/general manager Jerry Jones fielded some questions about the future on Friday during an interview with 105.3 FM The Fan.
Notably, Jones was asked about the Cowboys' salary cap and how aggressive they might be in free agency this spring. The Cowboys haven't been big spenders in free agency in recent seasons, and Jones seemed to indicate that might be the case again in 2017.
"Of course we do have draft picks coming, and that's the preferable way," Jones said. "As you know, you usually overpay tremendously in free agency."
Free agency has seen some gaudy numbers in recent years, as league revenues continue to increase the salary cap. But the Cowboys haven't been involved in much big spending since 2012, when they signed Brandon Carr to a $50 million contract.
The draft has been much more efficient in that time span, given that the Cowboys have added seminal talents like Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin on offense, as well as DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones on defense. This past year was obviously especially effective, with the Cowboys finding Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott in the draft.
But Jones was sure to make another point, and it's one he's made often this season. The Cowboys have a major piece for future seasons waiting in the wings in linebacker Jaylon Smith. The Notre Dame linebacker was the No. 34 overall pick in last year's draft, though he has been sideline by injury all year long.
Despite that, Jones is adamant Smith will make a comeback, effectively serving as an added asset for the Cowboys next season – and potentially for many seasons to come.
"He's everything as advertised – he's been that since he's been with the Cowboys," Jones said. "We don't have him on permanent IR, because we really haven't given up that he could have a nerve generation -- that he could compete. I don't know when that is, only God knows. But on the other hand, I do know how he's rehabbed. I do know what he's about, and he is even more than what we had expected.
"He, unequivocally, is going to be an outstanding defensive player for us – maybe a cornerstone player for us. So we're way ahead of the game as far as acquiring talent for the future – with him alone."