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Spagnola: Needing To Take A Swing At Backup OT


FROM HOME, Texas – Who's Next?

No, not The Who's great album released in 1971, the majority of the songs written by Pete Townshend.

Nope, just what must the Dallas Cowboys, following their much-heralded draft of last week, do next to fortify this roster heading – we hope – toward the 2020 season? Because as usual, no matter what's done in free agency, in the draft or rookie free agency, there's always more to do when it comes to talent acquisition.

And the Cowboys do have more, besides continuing efforts to sign Dak Prescott to a long-term deal that certainly will reduce his current franchise-tag salary cap hit of $31.4 million by approximately half.

Plus, we all get it, right? The Cowboys have done a heckuva job addressing that wide receiver position, for me one of their top-three needs, by nailing down CeeDee Lamb with the 17th pick in the draft. Plus, he possibly addresses the punt returner need, too.

Have worked hard on the cornerback position, another top-three need, grabbing Trevon Diggs in the second round and Reggie Robinson in the fourth, along with this week signing veteran free agent Daryl Worley, a 15-game starter this past season for the Raiders. And that's not to mention already having re-signed Anthony Brown to a three-year deal and veteran special teams guy Maurice Canady to one year. Plus, Diggs, too, could help address the punt returner need.

Check on center need, too, knowing they had Joe Looney in their back pocket, yet trading up to the final pick in the fourth round to nab Wisconsin's Rimington Award winner Tyler Biadesz, who actually started at the position this past season, more than anyone on the Cowboys current roster had.

Looks like they have created competition for what had been the vacant kicker position, re-signing last year's three-game wonder Kai Forbath and then veteran Greg Zuerlein, who, after a down season last year and no matter he's been with new Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel, will have to earn the job, for sure.

Getting Sean Lee re-signed bodes well for the linebacker position, along with re-signing Joe Thomas and Justin March, and Leighton Vander Esch should be good to go following neck surgery. Plus, knowing last year's rookie free agent Luke Gifford will be recovered from his fractured left arm landing him on IR, creates some depth, but certainly nothing wrong with keeping their eyes open for an opportunity here.

Probably set, too, at tight end after passing on re-signing Jason Witten, moving on to re-signing Blake Jarwin to a three-year contract to join Dalton Schultz again, bringing on veteran Blake Bell in free agency.

Though the Cowboys evidently chose not to re-sign backup guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, they will have Connor Williams returning from his torn ACL and last year's third-round draft choice Connor McGovern good to go after missing all of the 2019 season recovering from a torn pectoral muscle. So they should duke it out for the starting left guard spot, and the loser becoming the backup guard. That position should be OK.

Also nice job re-stocking the defensive tackle position, not only signing veteran free agents Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, but then in the third round drafting Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, a nice fit for rotation time at the start, and who knows what he might play himself into. That, along with last year's second-round pick Trysten Hill, a guy who better be on the come after a slow-starting, uneven rookie season. And don't forget about Antwaun Woods, expected to sign his exclusive rights tender soon.

And for those so worried about safety, evidently the Cowboys weren't as much, not spending one draft choice on a true safety. But knowing Xavier Woods is a staple now back there and having signed veteran free agent Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to a one-year prove-it deal, plus expecting better play from last year's rookie Donavon Wilson surely lessened the need factor. And sure seems guys such as Robinson and Worley have safety transition bodies for sure.

But here is the deal. There is no end to free agency, and to me here is where the most important work must come next:

The backup swing tackle.

Like right now, name it, who is it? Mitch Hyatt? Brandon Knight? Two rookie free agents last year? Remember, though, Cameron Fleming was the backup last year. The Cowboys knew they had to get better there, choosing not to bring the veteran back, leaving him available for the Giants to sign in free agency.

Now, the Cowboys did not draft an offensive tackle. But as pointed out, free agency is ongoing. And if you've noticed lately, teams are starting to release overly-priced offensive linemen, and it's May 1. Guys don't like looking up unemployed the first of May, especially not knowing when the NFL might return in this pandemic crisis. They will be more than willing to sign a one- or two-year deal for a club-friendly price to possibly re-start their career. Finding a veteran here with starting experience is a must.

Remember, Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith has missed three games in each of the past four seasons, and one of those, the 2017 loss at Atlanta, cost the Cowboys dearly in a game in which they gave up six sacks. There still are a few veterans left in free agency, nothing to write home about, but guessing you could get those guys for a song and a dance in backup duty.

Defensive end:

The Cowboys have taken some jabs at the right end spot to replace Robert Quinn, who led the team last year with 11.5 sacks. They did draft Bradlee Anae in the fifth round, but might be asking a lot for a rookie to be more than a rotational player. They do have high hopes for Randy Gregory and/or Aldon Smith to be reinstated from the NFL's indefinite suspension list, but that's never a given. And even if they are, who knows what either has left after extended absences. They do have third-year player Dorance Armstrong, but he managed just 23 percent of the snaps last year; and Jalen Jelks, too, but he spent his rookie season in 2019 on IR. If the Cowboys had to start a game tomorrow, my understanding the starting right defensive end would be Tyrone Crawford, and he's coming off dual hip surgery. Might need to take a flyer on a veteran pass rusher for one of those incentive-laced, one-year deals.

Backup Quarterback:

Now this is a "maybe." The Cowboys seemed fine re-signing Cooper Rush, and this mention is in no regard to worrying about Dak Prescott at some point either signing a long-term deal or his franchise tender. But with all these veteran quarterbacks sitting out there, and again, on May 1 without a job, who knows, maybe one for a reasonable price wouldn't mind becoming the next Jon Kitna or Brandon Weeden or Mark Sanchez for the Cowboys, just someone with actual game experience. But did like the move of drafting Ben DiNucci in the seventh round. Never know when a rookie free agent quarterback can be groomed to at least be the future backup. Who knows, maybe even a starter if you know what I mean.

But other than those worries, and maybe bringing in an all-purpose running back with a little experience to be a third behind Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, the Cowboys appear to be in pretty darn good shape for, well, who knows when the NFL might return for potential workouts or training camp. At least sounds as if the regular season schedule should come out soon, projected to be around May 9.

That then will be the next meaningful event to look forward to now that the draft successfully has been completed.

And after that, who knows what comes next.