INDIANAPOLIS – It's paranoia season.
As any NFL draft veteran can attest, this is the time of year when everything is a state secret. The Cowboys are one of 32 clubs at this 2022 NFL Combine trying to fortify their roster and scout this year's incoming draft class without giving away any competitive advantage.
Even still, there is information to be gleaned. This Cowboys front office isn't blind to the needs of its roster, as team chief operating officer Stephen Jones acknowledged Wednesday afternoon.
"We obviously have certain positions that we have more than others that are coming up," Jones said in an interview with DallasCowboys.com.
That goes without saying. At this point, it's common knowledge where the Cowboys' problem spots stand on the roster. But asked about it more specifically, it's interesting to note what he highlighted as areas of concern moving toward the start of the league year.
"We have three of our four safeties, in terms of play time last year – they're up for contract," he said. "We have the defensive line group with D.A. and Randy Gregory, that's certainly something that comes to mind."
That trio of safeties commands a lot of attention. Jayron Kearse is the obvious headliner after leading the team in tackles and calling plays on defense in his first year with the team. But fellow starter Damontae Kazee is also up for renewal, as is Malik Hooker, who saw his snaps increase significantly as the season went along.
Gregory draws a ton of attention after posting six sacks last season, but it's worth remembering that Dorance Armstrong finished just behind him with five of his own. Factor in the uncertainty surrounding DeMarcus Lawrence, and the prospects for both pass rushers could have a serious effect on the defensive end position.
There's also the matter of the tight end position, where Dalton Schultz is headed for free agency after catching 141 passes for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns over the course of these past two years. Combine that with two years' worth of serious injuries for Blake Jarwin, and it's clear the Cowboys don't love the situation at that spot.
"Dalton Schultz, with Blake Jarwin coming off an injury, he had a successful year," Jones said. "Certainly we don't have a lot of depth there in terms of how we're going to work through that in free agency, how we work through trying to get them signed up here, if we can work something out where they can stay with the Cowboys – and then ultimately how that affects the draft."
That's the fun part. Tough as they might be to predict right now, these decisions will ultimately help shape the Cowboys' draft board. The work they do in the next two weeks with free agents will go a long way toward shaping their strategy in April.