Dallas Cowboys needs assessment: What they need now

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys and teammates gather on the field against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys and teammates gather on the field against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half of the game at Lincoln Financial Field on December 31, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

A month into free agency, and a month away from the draft, we update the needs of the Cowboys.

Now that the Dallas Cowboys have dipped into the free agency pool, let’s try to make sense of the needs moving forward. There are still a few weeks of free agency to go, so some of the needs could be filled before the draft. This is a current outlook of where the team stands and what they might need to upgrade.


Regardless if you think Dak is a franchise quarterback or not, the Dallas Cowboys do not have a big need at quarterback. For the next few seasons, at the very least, Dak Prescott is the starting quarterback. Unless something crazy happens, there is no reason to think the Cowboys will grab a quarterback anytime early in the draft.

I would like to see them add a savvy veteran, but as of right now, they have two quarterbacks on the roster. With Dak being the starter, the backup looks to be Cooper Rush. Most teams have three quarterbacks and with the Cowboys only having two, it is more than likely the Cowboys will look for at least one more quarterback before training camp.

While they could certainly bring in a veteran, it also shouldn’t surprise anyone if they grab one later in the draft. At the very least they will need camp arms.

They will need some depth – someone to push Rush and to be a scout team quarterback. I would go with a veteran and some camp arms, but right now, it is still a need.

Running Back and Fullback

We all know Ezekiel Elliott is the starter, however it is after him there are some potential needs. Right now the backup is Rod Smith and somewhere Trey Williams lurks for playing time. However, since it is assumed Alfred Morris won’t be re-signed, the Dallas Cowboys are in need of another running back.

I doubt they will bring in a veteran, so this is a need that will most likely be filled in the draft. The talk right now is drafting Nyheim Hines. But this is a fairly good draft for a third down type running back, so if Hines goes before the Cowboys can draft him, then there should still be plenty of options.

Fullback is fairly locked down with the recent acquisition of Jamize Olawale. I could see the Cowboys bringing some undrafted free agents in for rookie camp, but other than one or two guys, depth is the only real need here.

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Wide Receiver and Tight End

This opinion will be unpopular among many fans, but wide receiver is not the need many feel it is. If anything, there is a logjam currently at wide receiver. With Dez Bryant still having to meet Jerry Jones, this could conceivably change. Although I don’t think it will.

Assuming the starting outside receivers are Dez Bryant and either Allen Hurns or Terrance Williams, there is still Cole Beasley, Noah Brown, Brian Brown, Deonte Thompson, Ryan Switzer, KD Cannon, and Lance Lenoir. There will already be some odd men out.

It would surprise me if the Dallas Cowboys grab a wide receiver early in the draft unless Bryant, Williams, or Beasley are no longer on the team. They will still probably grab one at some point, but there isn’t as big of a need as many feel.

Tight end, on the other hand, might be a bigger need than many realize. Jason Witten will come back for another season, but after him there are some questions. James Hanna could easily be a cap space casualty as releasing him could save about $2.75 million. Hanna is a good blocking tight end, but his cap hit is large for the role he plays.

Geoff Swaim is steady, but doesn’t offer much in terms of the passing game. While we all want to see what Rico Gathers can do, he hasn’t seen the field in regular season and is not much more than his preseason hype from last year.

Finding a replacement for Witten in this draft could be something the Cowboys will do. If they find a solid one, then Hanna may be released. Giving a rookie time to learn behind Witten would be the smart move and they could slowly take playing time from Swaim. If Gathers becomes even a regular player, then the future could be solid. This is a fairly good draft for tight ends, so it should not surprise many if the Cowboys grab one in the first four rounds.

Offensive Line 

This is an interesting positional group. With the Dallas Cowboys signing tackle Cameron Fleming and Marcus Martin, many would feel this group has been addressed. However, with Tyron Smith‘s back issues, and obvious depth problems, this could be a group added to early in this year’s draft.

This draft is fairly thin on the offensive line. After the first three rounds, there are not many highly rated linemen, with the next large projection starting in the sixth round. Depth has to be addressed at some point.

Guard seems the most likely position in the draft as there are about 3-4 really good ones in the first two rounds. If the Cowboys trade down in the first, this could be the pick.

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Defensive Line

Assuming the Cowboys are serious about Kony Ealy, they should be pretty set at defensive end. Rod Marinelli loves to send waves of players, so a late round selection could happen if they just want to add to that rotation. Marinelli also loves guys who can play across the line, but they have more of a need at tackle than end.

Defensive tackle is the spot that should be addressed in the draft, probably earlier than later. Luckily, this draft is fairly deep at defensive tackle. Rod Marinelli doesn’t like the traditional one-technique style tackles. It should not be expected the Cowboys grab one of the massive tackles to place in the center. This will limit who they will go after in the draft, but it is still a rather deep position.

I would expect defensive tackle to be one of the first three picks, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also grab one later as well. This is a rather large need and while they do have five currently signed, it is safe to say that they could use an upgrade.

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Sean Lee, when healthy, is still one of the best linebackers in the NFL. Jaylon Smith looks to be, at the very least, a good starter as well. While the Cowboys have Tre’von Johnson, Joe Thomas, Justin March-Lillard, and Damien Wilson, there is a huge hole left at linebacker with Anthony Hitchens leaving. Right now this might be the biggest need on the team (maybe safety, more on that in a minute) and it would be surprising if the Cowboys don’t grab one in the first two rounds.

It is fairly safe to say that Lee and Smith will be the starters, but there is just not much to go with them. This is a really good draft for linebackers, so I don’t think they will look at the scraps of free agency to fill this need. A first or second round linebacker could step right in and play fairly heavy minutes. Depth is an issue, so it should not surprise anyone if the Cowboys grab more than one in the draft.

Cornerback and Safety

It appeared that late in the 2017 season the Dallas Cowboys had a lot to look forward to with their rookies at cornerback. With Byron Jones seemingly moving back to corner this season, this looks to be a position of fairly solid strength. Depth will most likely be added through a late round pick or in the undrafted free agents.

Safety on the other hand is another position of huge need. While the Dallas Cowboys like what they have in Kavon Frazier, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath, free safety looks like a problem.

Currently the Cowboys have a mix of Jameill Showers, Jason Thompson, and Marqueston Huff as depth. None of them look like a starter, and it could be argued Frazier, Woods, and Heath are all more strong safety type players.

It appears safety is a position that will be most certainly be addressed in the draft, and probably early. This has been a need for some time and has not really been addressed like many have hoped. This is a solid draft in the first half of the draft for quality safeties. If the Dallas Cowboys grab one below the fourth round, it could be a huge problem.

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Special Teams

Resigning L.P Ladouceur was huge for the Cowboys and means the only way a long snapper is brought in, is to give L.P. rest. He will be a missed player when he does retire, but for now we have the best in the game. No need to replace him at this point.

Punter seems to be locked up with Chris Jones. While Jones has had a few injuries in the past, it would seem that this would be another position that only someone to give him rest would be brought in. Jones, when healthy, is one of the best in the NFL and for now has his roster spot locked up.

Kicker is the only position you have to pause at. Dan Bailey has been one of the best in the NFL, period. That was until his injury last year. Bailey did not return like the Bailey of old and missed what should have been sure things for him. This could be that he simply returned a little too early from his injury and needed more time to heal.

However, kickers are weird, sometimes they get the “yips” and they can’t shake them. For now Bailey is safe, but there will most certainly be at least one undrafted kicker brought in, even if it is to give him rest in the preseason and training camp.

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The rest of the special teams will be filled through the draft. Kick returner and punt returner should be covered and if Ryan Switzer can work on his hands a little bit, should be the front runner. The three main positions are safe for now.


There are some huge needs that will be addressed in the draft this year, but it looks like their foray into free agency filled some of the depth needs they had going into the offseason. There are still some needs for depth across the team, there seems to be fairly few starting position needs. This should allow the Dallas Cowboys to draft the famed “best player available” through most of the draft. Of course that is within reason as if one of the top quarterbacks dropped to 19, the Cowboys will probably just pass for the next position.

There should be some ability of the Cowboys to move around in the draft with ten picks, so they could grab some quality if they are able to move up in some rounds. There could be some draft day trades as well, which could help them position should someone drop within reach as well.

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Next: Dallas Cowboys: Should the Cowboys sign Kony Ealy?

For now it seems the Cowboys are fairly content with the moves they have made and will still look for opportunities like Ealy coming to visit. With less than a month to the draft, we have some answers, not all of them, but a better picture for sure.