Apr 27, 2012; Valley Ranch, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys first round draft pick Morris Claiborne holds up his new jersey at a press conference at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency's affects on the Cowboys draft plans

Two weeks into the start of free agency and the Cowboys have signed one player. Ernie Sims, signed off the street last year during the Cowboys rash of injuries to their defense, was re-signed to a one year, league minimum deal. Not exactly a big splash, but finally, Dallas got on the board. It is becoming clear that the Cowboys will fill out the holes on the roster mainly via the draft and late wave free agency signings. With six picks in the draft and little money currently to spend, let’s examine how Dallas will choose to complete the 2013 roster.

Quarterback
Draft Likelihood – Low
Free Agency Help – None

Tony Romo will have a new deal and be back as the starter for 2013 and beyond. Kyle Orton will be the backup. Not only is there is no need to have a third quarterback on the roster, this draft is particularly weak at the position

Running Back
Draft Likelihood – Above Average
Free Agency Help – Above Average

Even though starter DeMarco Murray is capable of being an every down back, his durability has been a bit of question mark. With no clear option for a solid backup, it is very possible that Dallas uses a pick to shore up this hole.

Scouts, Inc. has seven available backs with a ranking above 70. This list includes multiple 1,000-yd rushers Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Turner and Cedric Benson. There is also talented but oft-injured options such as Beanie Wells, Peyton Hillis and of course, Felix Jones.

Wide Receiver

Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris (17) returns a punt against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports


Draft Likelihood – Low
Free Agency Help – Low

The Cowboys have only one receiver on the roster who has more than four years experience so adding another young player at this position seems unlikely. Furthermore, the team is high on both Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley so unless there is a steal in the middle rounds available, this would be a shocking draft choice.

There are few options via free agency. Victor Cruz will cost anyone a first round pick so that’s out. Darrius Heyward-Bey would be the most intriguing as a possible option to replace Miles Austin if he has another sub par year but also quite unlikely. Josh Cribbs could be added, but primarily as a return specialist which is a luxury the cash poor Cowboys probably cannot afford.

Tight End
Draft Likelihood – Average
Free Agency Help – Low

With only two viable options on the roster currently, adding a third tight end could be likely in the later rounds of the draft. Free agency options begin and likely end with Fred Davis since there are very few available players worth entertaining.

Offensive Line
Draft Likelihood – Extremely High
Free Agency Help – Average

There could very well be a mutiny in Cowboys Nation if the Cowboys do not use at least one if not two of their first three picks to improve what is clearly one of the three worst units on the team. Only Tyron Smith should feel safe as a starter.

Plenty of quality options are still available two weeks into free agency. Chris Spencer at center or Brandon Moore at guard. Sebastian Vollmer, Eric Winston and Andre Smith at tackle would all be upgrades but unfortunately are likely to all be elsewhere as Jerry Jones does not see how bad the unit really is.

Defensive Line
Draft Likelihood – High
Free Agency Help – Low

This draft is loaded at defensive tackle, a position of need for Dallas. The Cowboys must look at using either their first or second round pick to acquire depth and talent at the position. While there is youth on the line with Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford, the 4-3 “Tampa 2″ defense always works best with a dominant defensive tackle.

I have been adamant about my desire to go after Osi Umenyiora. It would hurt a divisional foe and give the Cowboys a real force on the edge. With the lower numbers that older players on the defensive side of the ball are being paid this off-season, it almost makes too much sense, which is exactly why it will not happen.

Linebacker

Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter (54) tackles Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson (33) at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Browns 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports


Draft Likelihood – Low
Free Agency Help – Low

The plan most likely will involve moving either DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer or possibly both to the defensive line as going to the 4-3 eliminates the need for one of them. With Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, Dallas is set for years to come and only need to find one more running mate to have possibly the best group in football.

Dallas spent $10.6 million on one player. They will not add any other veterans in free agency as it is clear they are going to give players like Kyle Wilber, Alex Albright and Caleb McSurdy every chance to contribute.

Cornerback
Draft Likelihood – Average
Free Agency Help – Average

Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr are set as starters as is Orlando Scandrick in the slot. Sterling Moore adds necessary depth but at least one more is needed. Rounds four and five could be where Dallas addresses the bench.

In a pass happy league, is four quality cornerbacks enough? If Dallas does not bring in someone via the draft, there are currently twelve guys with a rating of 70 or better still available in free agency.  Brent Grimes, Antoine Winfield, Quentin Jammer and Nate Clements are your big names that still are looking for work.  Signing one of those guys could provide insurance if Scandrick has another below average year.

Safety
Draft Likelihood – High
Free Agency Help – Low

Rumblings persist that the Cowboys are looking hard at drafting at Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. I may personally be leading the one-man caravan to draft Tyrann Mathieu in round three. Regardless of who or when, it’s increasingly likely that Dallas will address the major lack of depth and experience sooner rather than later in the draft.

If Mathieu does not find his way to Dallas, the other off-season dream of mine is seeing the Star on the side of Charles Woodson’s helmet. If for no other reason than to have a sure thing first ballot Hall of Famer available to tutor young players, this is another almost no-brainer that you wonder if Dallas has figured out yet.

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Tags: Anthony Spencer Brandon Carr Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray DeMarcus Ware Morris Claiborne Tony Romo

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