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Paying Heavily For The Past Columnist 
March 10, 2004, 5:44 p.m. (CST)   

just fall off trees. They cost, and Rivera pocketed a $ 9 million signing bonus. 

Why? Well, here it is: Allen, Ron Stone, Shane Hannah, Kenneth McDaniel, Steve Scifres, Antonio Fleming, Kelvin Garmon, Matt Lehr, Gurode, Justin Bates and Stephen Peterman. 

Obviously, Allen was a good. Who knows, Gurode just might need more time. Offensive linemen sometimes do. And who knows about Peterman, missing all last season with a torn ACL. But you see why the Cowboys pulled the trigger at guard. 

And that brings us to at least two more positions the Cowboys must address, either in free agency or high enough in the draft to find an immediate rookie starter: 

Safety and defensive end. 

The weak should cover their eyes. 

"We'll reevaluate safety, and it's likely we'll do something in free agency at safety," Jones said. 

He would go on to say, "Yes, we gotta have a safety. We'd like to get Roy playing more involved, up closer." 

Sure, and here is why the Cowboys "gotta have a safety," again going back to 1994: Darren Studstill, Charlie Williams, Omar Stoutmire, Izell Reese, Tony Dixon and Roy Williams. Thank goodness Darren Woodson played 12 seasons. 

And defensive end? Here we go again, one more time: Shante Carver, Toddrick McIntosh, Oscar Sturgis, Kavika Pittman, Greg Ellis, Ebenezer Ekuban, Peppi Zellner and Colston Weatherington. That's three first-rounders in there, plus a first pick (Pittman in the second round), and of course, only Ellis remains. 

And this is precisely why the Cowboys took a swipe at Marcellus Wiley this time last year. Jones could well have said defensive end is another position the Cowboys have struggled to evaluate coming out of college. And it's not just during his reign. Because since 1983 when the Cowboys selected Jim Jeffcoat with their first-round pick, other than Tony Tolbert (1989, fourth round), here are the defensive ends selected between then and taking Carver 11 years later: Bryan Caldwell, Kevin Brooks (first round), Chad Hennings, Tony Hill and Kevin Harris. Hennings eventually was moved to defensive tackle. The rest never amounted to anything. 

Who knows where the Cowboys might have been had not San Francisco run out of patience with Charles Haley. 

But that was then, and this is now, and this year's draft might be one of the most important in Cowboys history if they are to permanently pull out of this tailspin. With two firsts and a high second, the Cowboys need three starters. 

Think about it this way, if you can add three starters to the three free agents, and figure you have recently added Roy Williams, Newman, Jason Witten, Al Johnson, Julius Jones and maybe - maybe - Drew Henson, Jacob Rogers, Peterman, Bradie James and Patrick Crayton in recent drafts, then the Cowboys would have a nice nucleus building. 

We might also throw in the acquisitions of Drew Bledsoe, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, Quincy Morgan, Lance Frazier, Leo Carson, Kalen Thornton, Lance Frazier and Scott Shanle, all of whom join forces with the likes of Allen, Adams, Ellis, Nguyen, Al Singleton and La'Roi Glover. Suddenly the dire straits cast by 2004 don't look quite so dire in 2005. 

"I think that if you'll look at the improvement that we expect from our first-, second-, third-year guys that we have here now, you look at what we expect from our young guys, then I'm really not looking at our talent acquisition, free agency or draft, as though we'd won only six ball games (last year)," Jones had said even before the open of free agency. "We have to have more immediate contributions from our free agency than we got last year and we have to have more immediate contribution from our draft than we got last year, especially since we traded our first pick last year and had an injury situation with our third pick, and Rogers didn't get to the field. 

"I'd say it is more important than many previous years, that all the previous players that we have right now play right now. It's always been important, but I think it's more important that they fit in immediately and contribute. And you've got the two (first-round) draft picks." 

Yep, they do. They have all this going for them. But the Cowboys need to, because they have a lot of draft history


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