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Jones On Hitchens' Future, Free Agency Philosophy, Catching Philly, More

FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys have plenty of work ahead three weeks before the start of free agency and just over two months before the NFL Draft.

Team executive vice president Stephen Jones and several members of the organization spent Thursday night supporting Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten at the inaugural Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award ceremony. Prior to the event, Jones spoke with reporters on several Cowboys-related topics:

  • Jones said the team has "a lot of work to do" with regard to retaining potential free agents such as DeMarcus Lawrence and Anthony Hitchens, as well as adding new contributors this offseason. But the front office is confident a strong offseason can return the team to contender status.

"Obviously at the end of the day you are what you are," Jones said. "We were a 9-7 team that missed the playoffs, and if we don't improve, we won't be any better next year. And so we have to improve this football team. We look at this as a great opportunity as we move forward.

"We're certainly not going to sleep well. We know we're not good enough right now. But at the same time we know we've got some really good football players and if we do some things the right way, we'll have a chance to compete for a championship. Hats off to the Eagles. They deserve to be Super Bowl champions. They certainly are where the bar is and we have to get better."

  • Jones said Hitchens, a starting linebacker since 2014, is a priority to bring back as an impending free agent. "I can't say enough good things about him," Jones said. "He's one of those guys who's available, you can count on him. He's the type of guy you want on your football team. …  Certainly we've got some good football players there in Sean Lee, a great football player that I think a lot of in terms of his drive. And Jaylon Smith and what he can be for us. That's going to be one that we certainly don't want to get out of here, but we certainly also have to understand that this one big puzzle that we've got to put together."
  • Asked about whether the team must make a splash in free agency, Jones pointed out that working to re-sign their own cornerstone players – Hitchens, Lawrence and Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin, a free agent after the 2018 season – takes a lot of resources. The team's philosophy over the last several years has been to retain their own stars and be opportunistic in free agency at other positions of need. "I've always said it – player acquisition is 365 days a year," Jones said. "We certainly understand what free agency is all about. Certainly the Philadelphia Eagles, when you look at them, they took advantage of free agency. We certainly have to pay attention to that, but at the same time, we have to keep our great football players."
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