The 2018 NFL Draft from Dallas is coming up quickly, on a league calendar that has not yet officially entered the new year. This hasn't stopped many teams from turning these last few weeks into opportunities for improvement, with trades, releases, and free agent agreements all taking place.
As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have been quiet. For better or worse, it feels safe to say they'll remain relatively quiet through free agency – relying once again on this year's draft haul to contribute right away.
With ten total picks in this draft, the Cowboys are in a great position to improve the overall depth of their team. Primarily in need of starters on defense, the Cowboys could look to upgrade their pass rush or add another starting-caliber safety early in this draft.
Having recently covered a DE prospect that would make sense for the Cowboys in Harold Landry, let's compare this need to their others in a developing secondary.
Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends
Current players under contract: Taco Charlton, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Charles Tapper
Thanks to DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys sustained a pass rush for the first time in a long time this season. Setting the tone up front at the LDE position, Lawrence was a dominant pass rusher with the help of Maliek Collins and David Irving inside.
Lawrence's dominance and ensuing franchise tag that's been placed on him for 2018 may have one downside though. Taco Charlton — the Cowboys first round pick of 2017 — is best at this same left end position, as he was in college.
With Tank and Taco rushing off of the strong side, and Benson Mayowa already released by the team, the Cowboys should still be in the market for their next great RDE. The days of relying on Randy Gregory to ever become this player are unfortunately over in Dallas, although he is eligible to apply for reinstatement.
Stopping here with their overall commitment to getting better in the trenches on both sides of the ball would not be smart for the Cowboys, and adding another talented pass rusher to join this solid group could have huge implications for this defense.
Dallas Cowboys Safeties
Current players under contract: Jameill Showers, Xavier Woods, Jeff Heath, Kavon Frazier
Byron Jones' move from S to CB this offseason is a positive one, as it allows one of the most athletic defenders in the entire NFL to play his ideal position. His absence could be felt at safety given the Cowboys' current depth here, with plenty of potential for Kris Richard to work with but little experience.
With Jones, Jourdan Lewis, and Chidobe Awuzie expected to start at CB, the Cowboys should feel great about their ability to cover on the back end. Helping these cornerbacks with adequate safety play needs to be prioritized, as Jeff Heath should remain a rotational player.
Rookie Xavier Woods and Kavon Frazier both flashes at times in various safety roles this season, and both have the ability to play down in the box. This means that the Cowboys need at safety remains a deeper play maker, a role Jones was never able to fit.
Similarly to their situation at DE, the acquisition of another safety could help the Cowboys get the most out of the players listed above – all of whom showing enough promise/consistency to earn snaps next season.
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Although free agency is far from the Dallas Cowboys' preferred method of roster building, their approach in these coming weeks before the draft could tell Cowboys Nation a lot about their outlook on defense.
This defense is incredibly close to coming out of the shadows of the Cowboys offense, becoming a top unit as opposed to one responsible for “protecting the lead” and “not being the reason the Cowboys lose”.