draft? Maybe, but you can't be sure in March you will be able to fill that need the last week in April. And seriously, who wants to use a first-round pick on a safety?
Cornerback: The Cowboys continue to tell us they must improve the back end of the defense, and there's been a bull's-eye on Terence Newman ever since the first Giants game last season, albeit a costly one when it comes to escalating dead money into the salary cap. OK, but signing a starter who is better will be costly. Might need to even sign two of these guys. Can the Cowboys afford the best, yet still fill all these other needs? They must ask themselves if the best available are worth the price. And caution, we're only about halfway done making our list.
Guard:The Cowboys have come to the realization a combination of a smallish center flanked by undersized guards is toxic. So if they are willing to stay with Phil Costa at center, then they must beef up the guard spot. Veteran Kyle Kosier is only 305, and the hefty veteran dudes on the other side, Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery are free agents. That leaves just Bill Nagy, Kevin Kowalski and David Arkin. Not a one tips the scale at more than 310. Got to sign at least one hefty guard with some experience before entering the draft.
Inside linebacker: Keith Brooking and Bradie James are free agents come Tuesday. That means inside the Cowboys have Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and maybe Orie Lemon, with Alex Albright moonlighting inside and out. Like what if Carter isn't ready to start Day 1? Then who? They've got to cover their bases. Now, there have been ripples the Cowboys are interested in re-signing Brooking, even by him. OK, fine, but even at a minimum deal that's going to cost a cool million, eating up more shrinking cap space.
Fullback: This one likely will be easy. The Cowboys can tender incumbent starter Tony Fiammetta as a restricted free agent. But even at the minimum, tied to original draft choice compensation (a fourth), that will cost $1.26 million. To me, judging from last year, that's a necessity.
Punter: Last but certainly not least on the list of necessities. Remember, Mat McBriar is a free agent, and if the surgery to remove the cyst below his kneecap clears up the drop-foot syndrome he suffered with last season, someone is going to offer him more than minimum, upping his price tag. More cap space to counter. So we'll probably find out what the Cowboys' comfort level is with Chris Jones, last year's rookie free agent who actually filled in admirably for McBriar. Going that route would save the Cowboys roughly $400,000 on a mere minimum deal to McBriar. We'll soon see if they have the stomach for that.
Quite a list of necessities, no, and it's been the Cowboys philosophy to fill as many of their actual needs in free agency within reason so they are freed up to draft as they please – meaning follow their board to select the best player available, again within reason, when their number comes up.
Oh, but just know that the most unrestricted free agents the Cowboys have ever brought in during one offseason since the advent of free agency as we've known it since 1994 is six, both in 2003 and 2006. And it's not as if on Tuesday there will be this cache of cap money dropping into their lap. Not going to happen.
The Cowboys have a delicate balancing act facing them, needing a whole lot, but handcuffed by ever-diminishing funds.
Good luck with all that.