IRVING, Texas – Apart from the ambiguous comments regarding the roles of the Cowboys' coaching staff, one other comment during the Senior Bowl resonated long after leaving Mobile, Ala.
It wasn't the message but rather the fact that it was said aloud, verbalizing a reality that many already knew, which made it stick.
"I don't ever see a time when we, the Cowboys, won't be under some serious challenges on the salary cap," said owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "I think that'll always be there for us, because we're that aggressive with our dollars."
The Cowboys set up contracts knowing restructures will be likely, if not necessary, at some point in the future. They found out a way to get under the cap last year more seamlessly than many predicted, but they did so with those same restructures that push money back to be paid at a later date while providing short-term cap relief.
That puts them in a position that'll be challenging to navigate for the foreseeable future if the Cowboys want to add any pieces. Don't bother looking at the list of unrestricted free agents this year. If you love an available player (i.e. Jared Allen, Anquan Boldin, Ryan Clark, Jason Hatcher) he's an unlikely option for the Cowboys, given their cap circumstances.
If the Cowboys are going to be a playoff challenger any time soon, they need to be among the league's best drafters and talent assessors. A good draft is not good enough. They have to be near perfect evaluators.
Jones prefaced his comments about the cap saying the team always wants to do as well as it possibly can in the draft, regardless of its cap situation. But that situation makes all the difference. It puts the pressure on to make sure the team hits consistently with its selections. [embedded_ad]
Drafts have gotten better in recent years, with Dez Bryant and Sean Lee arriving in 2010 and Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter and DeMarco Murray in 2011.
The verdict's still out on the latest drafts, though many have already concluded their opinions on the 2012 draft, which included three players in Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford and Matt Johnson that no one's seen fully healthy. It's also difficult to draw definitive conclusions on the latest draft, even though Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams appear to be strong bets to contribute for a long time.
There are reasons to be optimistic about a multitude of players from drafts in the Jason Garrett era, but the three or four misses a draft can't happen if the Cowboys want to be consistent contenders.
That's a lot of pressure to put on the draft every year, considering teams aren't going to hit on every selection, but it's a reality in Dallas given the lack of funds available in free agency.