NFL draft: Cowboys could be eyeing OL, S, WR
By JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer
IRVING, Texas — Jerry Jones has made it clear. He's not taking a quarterback in this year's draft.
Otherwise, anything is possible.
Maybe he'll go for an offensive lineman to help replace Flozell Adams, an anchor at left tackle the last 12 years who was cut a few weeks ago.
Maybe he'll go for a safety to replace Ken Hamlin, who was dumped the same day as Adams.
Or maybe he'll go for a receiver to make up for the catches Roy Williams hasn't been making.
With a team coming off an 11-5 season and its first playoff win since 1996, Jones could have the luxury of playing wait-and-see, then taking whoever is the best fit at any of those spots once his turn comes around at No. 27.
But this is Jerry Jones, master showman, and this is the first NFL draft held in prime time.
Surely he's going to want to make a splash.
Besides, he has more than the usual reasons to be aggressive because the upcoming Super Bowl will be held at his $1.2 billion palace, Cowboys Stadium, and he's driven to become the first host to also play in the big game.
So don't be surprised if Jones trades up to grab a guy he really likes. Or if he trades down to get an extra pick or two. Or if he deals picks for a veteran he thinks might be a perfect fit — anything to drum up interest, air time and, of course, to help his roster.
This guessing game is based on the first 21 years of Jones' ownership. The problem is, this 22nd offseason has been baffling.
Dallas is the only team that hasn't signed a free agent. Jones also stayed on the sidelines in the trade sweepstakes for receivers Brandon Marshall and Santonio Holmes.
Stranger still is that this inaction comes after Jones declared at the scouting combine, "I want some people nervous. I want our players nervous. ... It wouldn't surprise me to have 10 or 11 new faces on our team," including three or four who he said "would be in the 30-40 play position, rather than to call them starters."
Because Jones hasn't made trades or signed free agents, he must be expecting those upgrades to come through the draft.
The Cowboys go into the three-day event holding six picks, one in every round but the fifth. They will pick 27th in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh rounds, and 26th in the third round.
Offensive line appears to be the biggest need, especially after Tony Romo hardly had time to breathe in the playoff loss to Minnesota.
Doug Free is likely to inherit Adams' job, but his promotion opens a backup spot, someone who'd be one injury from protecting Romo and opening holes for Dallas' trio of running backs.
That would seem worthy of a top pick, except it doesn't seem to be in Jones' blood. The Cowboys have never taken an offensive lineman in the first round during the Jones era.
Offensive line is the only position outside punter and kicker that Jones hasn't tried in the first round. Then again, Jones has a good excuse: He snagged Larry Allen and Adams in the second round, Erik Williams in the third.
But the most recent of those picks was 1998. Since then, the Cowboys have whiffed on a bunch of second-tier guys; anyone remember Jacob Rogers, a second-round pick by Bill Parcells who never made it onto the field?
Jones probably has an open mind this time, but don't be surprised if he sticks to his status quo if he can land someone like Southern California safety Taylor Mays or Oklahoma State receiver Dez Bryant, both of whom offer more of a wow factor than any lineman could.
Jones often said last season the Cowboys already had a head start on their 2010 rookie class because several 2009 draft picks spent the year on injured reserve. Others who got minimal playing time will be expected to challenge for more this season, all of which plays into Jones' vision for the upcoming season.
Another issue is the shakeup within the NFC East.
Philadelphia sending Donovan McNabb to Washington drastically changes both teams. It remains to be seen whether either can be serious contenders this season. Dallas likely will be favored to repeat as division champions and probably will be second to reigning champion New Orleans among the teams to beat in the NFC.
"I think it's a bad thing for this team to think that we're about ready to take that next step," Jones said. "It's almost dreaming to basically try to take last year and project it into another win or another home playoff game. We've got a lot more to do here than that."
He hasn't done much so far this offseason. Maybe he's just been waiting for draft week.