* FRISCO, Texas –*Finally, it's beginning to look a lot like an NFL Draft.
There those mocks are sprouting up all over the place. The Cowboys are in the midst of their 30 visits. The NFL is concluding plans for how AT&T Stadium will be reconfigured into a 40,000-seat draft theater. And our annual *Official 2018 Dallas Cowboys Draft Preview *hit my desk this afternoon and is now available to all.
My goodness, the Browns, we think, will be first on the clock in three weeks.
So far, the Cowboys have either signed, re-signed, tendered or traded for a dozen players. Most of what they have done has followed their predetermined plan:
"We had a plan," Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said of what the Cowboys had mapped out for the start of free agency. "The plan was to get depth at the receiver positions. We needed a starting caliber offensive lineman and some depth at safety, then at linebacker."
Fine. Nearly every mission accomplished, "so we don't feel like we're going to be pushed to draft for a need," Jones said.
But again, nearly.
So thought we take a Shot at putting together a Cowboys Yet-To-Do list since there seems to have been a lull in the action this week, although they did bring defensive end Kony Ealy in for a visit.
Because as Jones and head coach Jason Garrett like to say, talent acquisition is 365 days a year, and especially since the Cowboys still have a ton of work left putting together what will ultimately be their initial 90-man roster heading into training camp late July.
Linebacker:While the Cowboys might have signed Joe Thomas, he's more of a depth/special teams guy. Even Garrett pointed out at the owners meetings a need for linebackers when asked about what else they needed to do. And what they need is a versatile one, capable of starting for sure, but flexible enough to play middle linebacker and weakside linebacker. Probably for this, the draft awaits.
Defensive Line: Don't care if that guy is a defensive tackle or defensive end, because remember the end of last season the Cowboys seemed to be running short of guys. And really don't care if that guy is a 3-technique or 1-technique tackle. They need some more quality beef in the middle to team with the likes of David Irving, Tyrone Crawford and Maliek Collins, who is recovering nicely from surgery to repair the fifth metatarsal stress fracture he played through for most of last season. And you never have enough pass rushers.
Offensive Line: OK, they have signed free agents Cameron Fleming and Marcus Martin, along with re-signing Joe Looney, but they still need two things: Either a seasoned backup guard if Martin happens to win the starting left guard spot, or if he doesn't, and La'el Collins has to move to left guard, with Fleming proving good enough to start at right tackle, then the Cowboys need someone to compete with Chaz Green and Kadeem Edwards for the all-important swing tackle responsibility. I'll repeat: The Cowboys can't let that most valuable spot hold this offense hostage again, not like last year. How cool would it be – or is that dope these days – to find a tackle in the draft capable of actually challenging for a starting guard spot?
Safety: If indeed the Cowboys plan to move Byron Jones to corner – and he succeeds there – then here are the only safeties still on the roster who actually played last year: Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier and Xavier Woods. That's it, and that's not enough. The draft awaits.
Quarterback: Two ain't enough. At some point, either in the draft, priority rookie free agency or a still unemployed somewhat-experienced veteran, the Cowboys need to add another arm, if for nothing else, training camp. Plus, be nothing wrong with having someone challenge Cooper Rush for the backup job he eventually slid into past now-coach Kellen Moore last year. Competition is always good.
Taco Supreme: How fitting was it to spot last year's first-round pick Taco Charlton at Ford Center's Training Table for the first time since the end of the season at the same time the weekly special on the menu is none other than, uh, TACOS. Sure looked like the guy grew a set of shoulders over the past three months of the offseason. Just looked visibly stronger. Man cannot rely on speed alone.
Professional Upset: Coaching generally is a nomadic profession. Few are afforded the luxury of staying in one place a long time. These guys move a lot. A lot. Reminded all the time of the story Tony Sparano once told me. From 1984 through 2002, Sparano worked at six different spots over the 28 years. At some point during his five-year stay with the Cowboys, he told me the story of his wife's anxiety attack when she looked out front and saw a moving van parked on the side of the road. He said she thought, Oh no, we're moving again. Ha. The truck was for the neighbors. So struck me upon meeting Cowboys' new offensive line coach Paul Alexander for the first time on Wednesday, wow, this is the first time he's had to change jobs in 25 years, having spent 24 of his 26 NFL seasons with Cincinnati. Unheard of, really, unless you are like Tom Landry.
Had to get at least one shot out to the past, right?