Richard Paolinelli

How Free Agency Impacts The Cowboys’ Draft Plans

Created on Apr. 15, 2013 8:00 PM EST

As the 2013 NFL Draft nears, the Dallas Cowboys have not been making a lot of waves in free agency. The team has been handcuffed by salary cap issues: a combination of overpaying players and a cap penalty handed down by the NFL over the way Dallas handled the uncapped 2010 season. Still, Dallas has been able to make a few moves with restructured contracts and outright cuts to address some areas of need, and those moves may be an indication of the Cowboys’ plans going into the draft later this month.  

Thus far in free agency, the Cowboys franchised Anthony Spencer — who will probably move from linebacker to defensive end as Dallas transitions from the 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme — re-signed LB Ernie Sims, signed LB Justin Durant, signed S Will Allen and re-signed WR Anthony Armstrong (who they had cut in March). They have lost seven players to other teams: CB Mike Jenkins, DE Kenyon Coleman, LB Victor Butler, LB Dan Connor, DL Marcus Spears, WR Kevin Ogletree and TE John Phillips are no longer Cowboys. But of those seven, only two might be considered tough losses in Ogletree and Butler.

Some mock drafts have Dallas selecting either a defensive lineman or a safety, with Missouri’s DT Sheldon Richardson, Texas’ FS Kenny Vaccaro or Florida’s SS Matt Elam the leading candidates to go at No. 18. But by keeping Spencer and Sims while adding Durant, Dallas seems to have solidified its defensive front seven. And the addition of Allen, who did a very passable job filling in for Troy Polamalu for the Steelers last year and has played for new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in the past, has made the defensive backfield less of an issue as well.

Those moves would indicate that Dallas is going to address its offensive line in the first round. Even if Dallas somehow keeps OT Doug Free and adds OT Eric Winston, the O-line is in such a poor state that they still need to add at least one more player at the position. Who Dallas gets at the position will be determined on how the first 17 teams select, but it is likely going to be either North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper or Kentucky’s Larry Warford.

Dallas could then turn its attention to the best player available at one of three positions in the second round. At safety, they could take Eric Reid out of LSU or South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger. UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin or even South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore — injury issue and all — at running back would be nice picks at No. 47. While securing a serviceable backup to DeMarco Murray would be preferred, especially with Felix Jones no longer with the team, Dallas could even go after USC WR Robert Woods in the second round as insurance for an oft-injured Miles Austin.

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