INDIANAPOLIS – First, a disclaimer: It's only late February. Still a full two months until the Cowboys go on the clock with the 58th pick in April's NFL Draft. Still a full two weeks until free agency.
Roster needs will come into focus as we move through the offseason. But for now, let's identify some positions the Cowboys could look to address one way or another. Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones discussed five potential needs Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine here in Indianapolis:
You could make this a placeholder for every February. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli likes to play eight linemen on game day, and injuries/suspensions limited Dallas' depth last season.
Randy Gregory's indefinite NFL suspension only exacerbates that issue.
The Cowboys are confident they can reach a long-term deal with Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, but Gregory ranked second on the team in sacks (6) in his first season back from a year-long suspension.
At tackle, starter Maliek Collins is entering the final year of his deal and David Irving is a free agent.
"In our mind, you can never have enough defensive line depth, especially the way Rod likes to play them," Jones said. "He likes them to play with their hair on fire. I think you can't ever have enough defensive linemen."
The Cowboys have a blend of youth and experience here, but not a lot of depth.
"You've obviously got Xavier (Woods) who we're thrilled with – young, up and coming," Jones said. "Of course, Jeff (Heath) is doing a great job holding the down safety down, but then it's a little thin after that. Kavon (Frazier) was a late-round pick who was a good special teams player who can certainly play the down position. But I think we need to look at that position."
Their only other backup safety, Darian Thompson, is set to be a free agent.
Jason Witten's retirement left the Cowboys young and thin last May. Now they've got a chance to improve depth and competition through free agency and/or the draft.
Each of their three young tight ends has talent. Blake Jarwin recorded 23 of his 27 catches after Geoff Swaim broke his wrist in November. Dalton Schultz's production improved down the stretch. Rico Gathers showed improvement in his transition from basketball. But adding another option for quarterback Dak Prescott looks like a real possibility.
"Swaim is going to be a free agent and then we're young after that," Jones said. "We've got to keep our eye on that as well."
Beyond All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott, the personnel is uncertain. Rod Smith and fullback Jamize Olawale are set to be free agents.
Elliott, a two-time NFL rushing champ, led the league rushing attempts (384) and had the fifth-most catches by a running back (77) last season. His usage likely won't dip much, but the Cowboys have to make sure they've got depth behind arguably their best player.
"Backup running back is certainly something if we see a young guy in the draft that makes sense," Jones said. "I don't know that it would be early. But I do think that as you move through the draft, if we see a back we really like, then certainly we'll take a look at that."
This one's a little tricky because it requires some foresight. On paper, the 2019 Cowboys don't have an issue at corner. A year from now, the numbers could look different.
"I think we've got one of the best corner staffs in the league in terms of depth," Jones said. "When Jourdan Lewis is not getting a lot of plays, I think that tells you a lot."
Indeed, it's a good young group that features All-Pro Byron Jones, 2017 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown and Lewis, a former third-rounder who played less than 20 percent of the defensive snaps.
Brown is a free agent after 2019. So is Jones, even though he's in the group of Cowboys Pro Bowlers who could get extended at some point.
A little like safety, where Heath and Frazier are free agents next year, perhaps the Cowboys add insurance in the draft this year if the value is there.
"We love that position, but all those guys are going to come up for contract quickly now," Jones said.