Cowboys need to make radical moves

FRISCO, Texas -- When a team executive says the franchise is going "all in," the interpretation varies.

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys' team owner and general manager, said his franchise was going "all in" for the 2024 season when he met with reporters at the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago.

Jones believes the Cowboys fight for a Super Bowl every season. But what does it mean for a coach?

Mike McCarthy, entering the final year of his contract, with no talks for an extension on the horizon despite three consecutive 12-win seasons, offered his own assessments of what "all in" means.

"I think with that, obviously we've had some really good teams the last couple of years," he said. "We're disappointed we haven't reached the ultimate goal. But I think it's just identifying the fact that it's important to go back and start the basics and that starts with player acquisition and the ability to get the new staff and get the personnel guys in the same room next week."

If the Cowboys want to go "all in," it would mean radical moves to a roster that proved successful under McCarthy the last three seasons.

Yet, decisions on the roster mean bold moves in free agency where you worry about the salary cap later, a similar philosophy of the Los Angeles Rams, who took that path to a Super Bowl title. "

It would also mean drafting a quarterback when you already have one. When Kansas City drafted quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Alex Smith was on the roster. Draft experts criticized the move, but you know the rest.

Going "all in" means that. You don't worry about the salary cap. You create competition. You make bold moves in the draft for players projected to have an instant impact.

We look at three ways the Cowboys could go "all in":

Upgrade the defensive line

You want to go "all in," then sign the Chiefs' Chris Jones. When the Chiefs picked up the defensive tackle's option, it took him off the market. But it's that type of move that's a statement to the organization and the fan base. With Jones off the market, sign Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, another top defender who enters free agency. Hunter is a four-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL with 23 tackles for loss in 2023. He has 27 sacks the last two seasons.

When it comes to improving the run defense, Grover Stewart (6-4, 314 pounds), who tied for the league lead in run-stop win rate at 43%, is someone to look at.

Draft a running back

Please stop the Derrick Henry-to-the-Cowboys nonsense. Do you want a running back with 629 rushing attempts on his body the last two seasons who will be 30 years old in Week 1? That's what you want? Fine. How about going the Rams' and Lions' route of finding smaller, younger backs in the draft? The Lions drafted Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama with the 12th pick in 2023 and he rushed for 945 yards. With David Montgomery, who rushed for 1,015 yards, the Lions had a nice running game. The Rams drafted Kyren Williams, a 5-9, 194-pounder from Notre Dame in the fifth round in 2022. He just led the NFL with a 95.3 yards per game average while gaining 1,144 rushing yards. Here's a secret: These players are sprite-like and under six feet. You don't need a big bruising back for the red zone on rushing plays.

Last year, the draft had a better class at running back. This year, Texas' Jonathon Brooks (6-0, 203 pounds) and Blake Corum (5-8, 213) from Michigan are projected Day 2 and Day 3 picks. Here's a player you need to watch for: New Hampshire running back Dylan Laube. The Athletic's Dane Brugler named him a Senior Bowl winner for his production in practices. Laube is 5-10, 210 pounds. The Cowboys' running back room is going to change with Tony Pollard and Rico Dowdle entering free agency. So find a new starter in the draft and stop the Derrick Henry-to-Dallas talk. Please.

Draft a starter for the OL

In the last four seasons, the Cowboys drafted six offensive linemen and found two Pro Bowl starters in center Tyler Biadasz and guard Tyler Smith. Biadasz is a free agent this spring, while Smith could move to left tackle. Starting left tackle Tyron Smith enters free agency and his return is doubtful. So, do you move Tyler Smith to tackle and find a guard? Do you keep Tyler Smith at guard and find a tackle? Projections change in sports, so the Cowboys should get one of the better tackles in the draft in Joe Alt (Notre Dame), Olu Fashanu (Penn State) or Alabama's JC Latham.

If you're "all in," then trade up to select a Week 1 starter.

Being "all in" means different things. For the Cowboys, we'll see exactly what that means.

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