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Senior Bowl | 2024

Will McClay dives into offseason plan of improving


MOBILE, Ala. — The draft process is off and going for the Dallas Cowboys who have once again sent the majority of their front office to Mobile, Ala. for the annual Senior Bowl on the campus of the University of South Alabama, as vice president of player personnel Will McClay and his staff take the next step forward in evaluating the draft class amidst a busy offseason.

While McClay would rather be gearing up to play in Las Vegas in a couple of weeks, he does value the time spent in Mobile during this time of year each time that it comes around, as it allows the team to pair the player with the person.

"This is the time you really get to reset it," McClay said. "Everybody wants to be playing in the Super Bowl, but we're going to try and get back and rally to get there next year. It's a really important time to get to know these guys and see what we can bring to the team."

The offseason has already been a busy one for McClay. After receiving requests from the Carolina Panthers and Washington Commanders to interview for their vacant general manager positions, McClay declined and devoted his immediate attention to the offseason in Dallas.

"You set a goal, and one of my goals is to be a part of winning a Super Bowl here with the Cowboys," he said. "We've built something great. We've got a great staff – the coaching staff and the organization. There's nothing like winning one at home, and that's truly the goal."

His offseason evaluations have been in-depth, as Jerry and Stephen Jones described them as “holistic” on Tuesday in taking a big lens to everything. Offensively, questions exist about the running game and it's paired directly with the play up front on the offensive line. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the 2024 draft class and the talent in Mobile each have deep talent up front that can be taken advantage of in the early rounds.

"Number-one, watching the offensive linemen," he said. "Getting an opportunity to see them in different settings and seeing them do NFL stuff, you get to evaluate that ability…The running game, it's all predicated on the blocking, the runner, the situation and all of those things."

"I think what Mike [McCarthy] has done a great job of incorporating is tying the run and pass game together. With that, you've gotta have offensive linemen that can move people off of the ball, can play in space. It's that grit and strain. That's why we're here at the Senior Bowl, to find who has that stuff and bring it to the roster to make it even better."

Defensively, a lot of question marks still hang in the balance a few weeks into the offseason with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn still in the running for the Commanders' head coaching opportunity. But for McClay and his department, the organizational structure of evaluating offseason acquisitions both through the draft and free agency remain the same despite the uncertainty.

"At the end of the day, when you're looking for players, you're looking for the biggest, strongest, fastest, most athletic guys and seeing how they fit into our scheme," he said. "Whatever that scheme is, we've gotta evaluate the players and if that scheme changes at any point in time, you still have that historical value as to what guys are and how they fit."

The linebacker room sticks out as a position group in need of additional depth this offseason, especially given the Cowboys' inability to consistently stop the run from game-to-game. In attacking the draft and offseason, the importance remains high in the front office to beef up in that area.

"I think it's big," McClay said about the need at linebacker. "We didn't win the championship, so we gotta get better at every position. We want to see the growth from our young players. We want to see our veteran players bring us along where we need to and we gotta find those young guys you can bring in and make sure we build the team all the way through."

Free agency looms as a potential opportunity for the Cowboys to “disrupt” this offseason, and with over a quarter of the active roster set to hit the open market, a challenge exists for the personnel department to find their guys while they also await certainty on how much cap room they will have available.

"Every year is the same challenge," he said. "We gotta grade them all, we gotta go through it. We have to know who they are, our rankings and evaluations of them and then see what happens. The thing about free agency is that there's that big boom initially and then it's the last seat. You're trying to find guys that fit you that fit your price range."

McClay and his team will evaluate in Mobile before gearing up for the NFL Combine, 30-Visits, free agency and much more this offseason before taking its 2024 product to the field in Oxnard in six months. In that time, a simple overall goal remains the focus.

"Filling our needs and finding better players that can help us get to the point," McClay said. "That's the offseason for me, improving in any way that we can."