NFL: AUG 21 Preseason - Texans at Cowboys
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FRISCO, Texas --  The Dallas Cowboys may have altered their free agency plan from "all in" to "get it done with less" , but owner and general manager Jerry Jones remained steadfast in being "all in" about the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft on Tuesday.

Being unable to re-sign 2023 Second Team All-Pro quarterback Dak Prescott ($55.1 million cap hit in final year of contract) and 2023 First-Team All-Pro wide receiver CeeDee Lamb ($17.991 million cap hit in final year of contract) early in the offseason prevented Dallas from being able to execute an "all in" run of player acquisition. 

"We feel great about what we've been in free agency. All in. All in. All in," Jones said. We're all in with these young guys. We're all in with this draft. We're all in with knowing that you have to go. We've had adjustments. ... Again, without sounding defensive at all, the youth, the young guys coming in here and playing are incrementally viable. We're counting on them and we've had that happen for us."

Dallas actually had one of its worst player retention offseasons in team history as they lost eight players to other teams in free agency, including five starters: left tackle Tyron Smith (New York Jets), running back Tony Pollard (Tennessee Titans), center Tyler Biadasz (Washington Commanders), defensive end Dorance Armstrong (Washington Commanders) and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (Seattle Seahawks). Eight free agency departures is tied for the third-most in a single offseason in team history. That places even more pressure on the Cowboys front office to select multiple rookie contributors this week, especially on the offensive line after they lost two Pro Bowlers (Smith and Biadasz). 

"I think in general, if you look at attrition, if you talk about where it hits us the hardest, it's the guys we lost in the offensive line," Cowboys COO and executive VP Stephen Jones said.

Jones also challenged the younger offensive lineman currently on the team center Brock Hoffman (an undrafted free agent in 2022), guard/tackle Asim Richards (a fifth round pick in 2023) , backup offensive tackle Matt Waletzko (a fifth round pick in 2022) and guard T.J. Bass (an undrafted free agent in 2023) take their play to new heights. He also cited the front seven (defensive end and defensive tackle), running back and wide receiver as positions of need. 

"You certainly want those young guys coming. Whether it's the three guys we picked the last three drafts, [Josh] Ball and [Asim] Richards and [Matt] Waltezko, TJ Bass, all of those guys, it's time for them to step up," Stephen said. "Obviously, T.J. played a lot last year [all 17 games with two starts] and we really liked what we saw there. You move on from [defensive end] Dorance Armstrong, have Sam Williams, who has certainly shown a lot. Certainly been frustrated with his play time -- frustrated is probably not a fair word -- but would like to play more. We think a lot of him and he needs to step up. And of course, the running back situation is one that we will continue to address. Obviously, we will look at it in the draft but also looking at Pollard in terms of replacing him. We've got to work through that. Those are all things that require young people to step up. We've had a good track record. .... Obviously [2022 third-round pick wide receiver Jalen] Tolbert. It took him a year but stepped up and played really well. I think he'll take it to another level this year."

As many as nine or 10 offensive linemen could be selected in the first round of the 2024 draft, meaning there should be one or two players who could slot in at left guard or left tackle with the Cowboys' 24, depending on where Pro Bowl left guard Tyler Smith, who played left tackle in college at Tulsa but moved inside because of eight-time Pro Bowler Tyron Smith's as Prescott's blindside protector, plays. 

"It's great to be drafting a position when there's a lot of them," Jerry said. "Quantity. If you're where are, of course it's the 24th pick, but my point is if you can go in and it happens to fit need and there is a long numbers of them in the draft, that's fortuitous. That's a good thing to have happen. So that's very good. Secondly, to me, I was an offensive lineman. They're always the smartest, the best looking and they're the ones that end up owning the teams. So it's fun to be able to take a good offensive lineman."

Thanks to Smith's versatility -- he said he is comfortable at left guard but is willing to play left tackle -- head coach Mike McCarthy feels comfortable in Dallas selecting an offensive lineman based on the team's grade on the player, regardless of whether that player is a tackle or interior lineman. 

"I think the biggest thing is you've got to take the best player, the best value," McCarthy said Tuesday of the draft's top offensive line prospects. "That's why we have the draft process. Tyler's flexibility gives us something unique to have. The fact that he's started at both positions at such a young age is pretty special. I look at these players, just say the offensive line room, which player, regardless of the position, do they make the offensive line room better. I have great confidence in our process that if we do select on high, that we'll make the offensive line room better and we'll figure it out. If we had to go play a game today, we'd be able to."

Like Smith himself, McCarthy let slip that he also views his best position as left guard. 

"Now, where Tyler would line up, it would probably be at guard ...or maybe tackle," McCarthy said laughing. "That's just the reality of where we are. I get the paper championships that are won the spring and you try to fill up your roster. If you lose a Tony [Pollard], you're supposed to replace it with another guy. That's just not the reality of how this thing works. I think we just need to stay true to our board and whoever we add, in any of those position rooms, especially offensive line room, will make us better." 

Say what you will about the Cowboys front office's management of the salary cap, but they have been able to extract more value out of the draft than everyone in the NFL across the last decade. The Cowboys have drafted 15 players that have made at least one Pro Bowl since 2014, the most in the NFL and three ahead of the Baltimore Ravens (12). Since 2010, all four of the offensive linemen Dallas has selected in the first round have made a Pro Bowl: left tackle Tyron Smith (eighth overall in 2011, eight Pro Bowls), center Travis Frederick (31st overall pick in 2013, five Pro Bowls), right guard Zack Martin (16th overall pick in 2014, nine Pro Bowls) and Tyler Smith (24th overall pick in 2022, one Pro Bowl). 

"Well I think the communication too is outstanding between our scouting staff and [head coach] Mike [McCarthy] and his staff, [vice president of player personnel] Will [McClay] and his staff, really in terms of getting on the page as to what we want in a Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman," Stephen said. ... "I just think we do a great job of going through all these guys and really communicating back and forth. ... We want to draft a Dallas Cowboy offensive lineman that fits in the room with a Zack Martin, with a Tyler Smith, with a Terence Steele. You want that guy that you pick to be a guy who's going to go in that room and be an additive to what we're trying to get accomplished there. Certainly, I think we've had great work put into this process and as Jerry said it's certainly fortuitous when you look up and probably one of the deeper positions on this draft, I think unanimously is the offensive line position."

Outside of having two holes on their offensive line, the Cowboys almost have to address the position because of what they are set to face on the other side of the line of scrimmage in the NFC East. The Philadelphia Eagles (both defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter are first-round picks), the Washington Commanders (both defensive tackles Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne are Pro Bowlers and first-round picks) and the New York Giants (defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and edge rusher Brian Burns are Pro Bowlers and first-round picks, edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft) are all stocked with high-level talent on their defensive lines. 

"I think it's very important, but I think you just don't go too far and I'm talking about our division games," McCarthy said about being strong up the middle along the offensive line. "I think the defensive tackle play in our division is as strong as I've ever seen. And in my history in the league, if you don't have four or five No. 1 picks on your defensive line, you're behind the times. So I think pass rush is at a premium so [interior strength] is definitely something we put a premium on, not only who we have protecting in there but how we do it."

Will the Cowboys look to trade down?

Dallas has traded back in the first round just twice since 2010 with their last first round trade down occurring in 2021 when the Cowboys picked up an extra third-round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles to drop from the 10th overall pick to the 12th overall pick. Philly ended up with wide receiver DeVonta Smith, who they re-signed to a three-year, $75 million contract extension, with the 10th selection that draft while Dallas selected Parsons 12th overall, a fact Jerry may have forgotten about when he was asked about trading down in Round 1. Doing so would make sense for the Cowboys since they need as many draft choices as possible to restock their roster. 

"Well, I'll say this. It's very likely to have an opportunity to do that," Jerry said when asked about trading down. "Given the right people left on the board, or the wrong people gone off the board, and the right trade, and what time of day it is and if I'm in the room, I'm just kidding now. Really, there's a lot of variables here as to whether you'd go up or down. I'm not trying to be cute there. Obviously we'd like to have some mid-round picks. But by the same token, Micah Parsons might be sitting there with that pick. Now, do you want to go for some more picks or do you want a name?"