IRVING, Texas – Cowboys executive vice president and director of player personnel Stephen Jones touched on a myriad of subjects Monday, but the most pertinent had to do with the future of quarterback Kyle Orton.
Jones didn't seem overly concerned on 105.3 FM "The Fan" about Orton's absence during voluntary workouts, despite Tony Romo coming off back surgery and questions lingering about whether or not the backup quarterback could retire. He believes Orton will be with the Cowboys in 2014.
"I have not talked to him, but I know Jason (Garrett) and our coaches have, and that's just a situation that we'll work through," Jones said. "We expect Kyle, when mandatory practice starts and mandatory things begin, we fully expect Kyle to be there."
The signings of quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Caleb Hanie during the offseason were made to bring more arms into camp as Romo returns from his injury, but they could also add insurance in case Orton's absence extends longer than expected.
Jones didn't rule out any position being selected at No. 16 overall in the upcoming NFL Draft, including the quarterback spot, nor did he comment at length on the team's interest in Johnny Manziel.
"Not anything I can say about it," Jones said. "We haven't quite gotten into sorting out the quarterbacks yet. That'll come in terms of finalizing our board. Only thing I can say about Johnny Manziel is he obviously had a great career in college, one of the greatest college football players that I've watched in terms of exciting and making a difference and being a great competitor. Those are things we'll work through and there's a lot of things that go into where you ultimately put a player on your board."
Jones said the order of players is still being sorted out, and the Cowboys are about halfway through the finalization of their board.
"I think if the guy's high enough on the board, then you would take any position," Jones said. "If he's a merited first-round pick and especially merited to be taken at the 16th pick, then we would consider it."
The signing of Anthony Spencer could go a long way in helping revamp the defensive line, but it shouldn't do much come in terms of affecting the Cowboys' draft plans.
Dallas re-signed their defensive end to a one-year deal, but it's difficult to predict the production of a player coming off microfracture knee surgery. Jones said the deal worked out for both sides.
"Obviously, Anthony's always been a Cowboy," Jones said. "We've worked through a lot with him. He's had a lot of big games and big seasons for us. Obviously, last year was frustrating. I think he decided it was in his best interest to get to work right here at home where his family is and really get into getting back; and if he does what we all hope he does, which is go out and have a year like he normally has, he'll be ready to get that contract I know he was after next year.
Jones and the Cowboys have said in the past that they value the three-technique defensive tackle and that one-technique players can typically be found later in the draft.
Florida State's Timmy Jernigan has been a favorite to land with the Cowboys in many mock drafts, but if the Cowboys don't believe he's a three-technique, his chances at landing with the Cowboys in the first could be slim.
"Those are things we're working through right now," Jones said. "I think he's obviously a great football player, and I think those are the things we're trying to see, is can he be a three-technique in our system."
Jones reiterated that he wouldn't rule out a specific position entirely from the first round, but it still doesn't sound like the one-technique is coveted. The safety spot is another story.
"It'd be a long, detailed explanation as to how we rate our defensive linemen and things of that nature," Jones said. "But I would say this, I'd say a safety's capable of being a first-round pick and a top half of the first round pick if he's dominant enough. But there's a lot of defensive linemen that merit first-round picks. If we think a player's ceiling may be a one-technique, then it may be hard for him to make our first round." [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys have experienced a ton of hamstring troubles lately, as the defense in particular has been decimated by injuries, but it doesn't sound like there will be any massive training changes.
"No," Jones said, "we looked long and hard at it, don't get me wrong. One of the things we have to look at it, and I think it's well-documented, with our new labor agreement, obviously the players aren't required to be here. I would submit to you, and I think the players would be the first to say it, if you're not in a competitive workout situation, then it's probably not as intense and not quite what it should be.
"When they're reporting 45 days later and they're working out on their own, they're not quite up to where they normally would be when you start earlier. But those are things we're going to continue to work with, with the union, and those are things that will have to be worked out over time, and we'll continue to tweak and do things better."