IRVING, Texas – The Henry Melton signing changes the Cowboys' roster for the better, but it shouldn't change their draft focus.
If Aaron Donald, a perfect three-technique fit for the Cowboys' defensive front, is still available at No. 16 when the Cowboys make their selection, the Melton signing shouldn't stop them from pulling the trigger.
Yes, both Donald and Melton fit in at the same position. But if defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's proven anything in a year in Dallas, it's that he wants and needs versatile, quick linemen with an ability to get up field.
He doesn't refer to his linemen as linemen – they're "rush men" in his eyes. Marinelli can move his linemen around, as he demonstrated in Chicago when he occasionally rushed defensive end Julius Peppers from the interior. More recently, he's utilized Jarius Wynn as both a defensive tackle and defensive end, and Tyrone Crawford has that ability as well.
Marinelli can figure out a way to best utilize his "rush men", and the more the merrier on the defensive line after a year in which the Cowboys finished last in the league in sacks per pass attempt. A solid line would also give the Cowboys a better idea of their talent on the back end. It's tricky to judge a group of young defensive backs when the quarterback has loads of time to dissect the defense.
The Melton deal may give the Cowboys a little more confidence to select the best player available at any position rather than force a pick on a defensive tackle they don't deem worthy, but it doesn't inhibit them from selecting an interior lineman and it shouldn't change the way they operate in the draft.
I'm not one to believe needs should be completely forgotten when selecting players. The losses of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher will be felt even after the Melton signing, and the current roster shouldn't be ignored during the draft process.
The Cowboys could still draft another stud defensive tackle, which, given the way Melton's contract is structured as a one-year deal with a three-year team option, would allow the luxury of a choice prior to the 2015 season. [embedded_ad]
If Melton has a down year and the Cowboys don't want to pick up that three-year option, they'd need another disruptive player on the interior to feel comfortable with to move on.
If Melton returns from the knee injury and gets back to his 2011 and 2012 form and the Cowboys agree to pick up that three-year option, having another disruptive defensive tackle to use in tandem with Melton would still be preferable.
Defensive tackle was the obvious need for the Cowboys prior to the Melton signing, and getting help on the defensive line should still remain a goal, even if it's less of one today than it was a week ago.
That doesn't mean the Cowboys should reach on a lineman if another player is rated significantly higher. It just means that if a defensive lineman – or any other player, for that matter – the Cowboys would have selected prior to the deal becomes available, the signing of their new three-technique tackle shouldn't change their opinion.