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Cowboys Roster: Identifying Team Needs & Strategies, Part 3/3

Tommy Simon

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Cowboys Blog - Cowboys: Identifying Team Needs & Strategies, Part 3/3

In the first two parts of this series, we assigned scores to each position on the team. If you haven't already, give those a read before continuing here to help you better understand this final part:

  1. Cowboys Offense: Identifying Needs & Strategies, Part 1/3
  2. Cowboys Defense: Identifying Needs & Strategies, Part 2/3

Now that we have a unit by unit assessment, let’s look at the combined needs of the Cowboys based on the priority scores. In review, these scores are based on two criteria. The first criteria is the overall importance of the position. Each position has a strategic importance score. The second criteria looks at the quality of the person who will play the position if the Cowboys do not address it.

So, for example, the Cowboys do not have a backup guard right now, so it is a critical (or urgent) need.  The Will linebacker has Sean Lee slated, so while important it is not critical. The Sam linebacker only has Anthony Hitchens (so average critical), but if he moves to middle linebacker, then it only has Mark Nzeocha, so it become a moderately high to high critical need.

Let’s look at the most important and critical (urgent) needs the Cowboys will have this offseason:

  1. Corner = 36
  2. Starting DE = 36
  3. Starting Three Technique = 36
  4. Backup QB = 30
  5. Running Back = 28
  6. Middle Linebacker = 28
  7. ROT/Swing Tackle = 25 to 28
  8. Blocking TE = 25
  9. Third Down RB = 25
  10. Strong Side LB = 24
  11. 2nd or 3rd Receiver = 24
  12. Backup Three = 22.5
  13. 4th Corner = 20
  14. Backup Guard = 20
  15. Fullback = 20
  16. Backup Free Safety = 15
  17. Fourth Guard/Backup Center = 14

So what does all this mean? What does it tell us? Are there any insights we can gather from this process?

Here are 15 insights that I believe these numbers tell us:

  1. If you have a score of 30 or more, you need to try to address it as early as possible in free agency. These are impact positions that need impact players. You can’t wait around and hope you cover it in the draft. I suspect the Cowboys will try to sign at least three of the four positions with a score of over 30 before the 2016 NFL Draft.
  2. The Cowboys will spend the most dollars on the roles with the highest scores. Common sense really.
  3. Having 11 positions with a score above 24 is daunting and certainly above average. That means the Cowboys have more work to do than normal. I think it will be hard to fill all of the gaps with free agents and by re-signing players. That means the "sign the best player available" draft approach will be compromised some this year.
  4. In a perfect scenario, you would like to fill all positions that score 25 or higher prior to the draft so that you do not have gaps and can draft the best player available, but that is probably impractical for this year. There are just too many starting needs that must be addressed. So if possible, the Cowboys will need to spend their highest draft picks on any remaining positions in excess of 25 that are unfilled in free agency.
  5. My guess is the Cowboys will try to re-sign five players and another four or five free agents. Likely targets for re-signing are James Hanna, Mackenzie Bernadeau or Ronald Leary, Lance Dunbar, Jack Crawford, Jeff Heath, Morris Claiborne, and Kyle Wilber. Either way, they will need at least 10 signings combined. I'll address possible free agents in a later article.
  6. The Cowboys will need to have up to seven rookies on the roster. They will probably have four sixth rounders which can help to fill two of the developmental roles, so the Cowboys will need to find five impact or contributing players from this draft. That is a high number and should lead to a strategy of trading down to pick up at least one or two extra picks in the second and third rounds.
  7. You can wait to address any position with a score under 24 until after the draft. This will allow you to wait to see what players you draft and what holes remain before filling the remaining positions. Of course, if you can re-sign players or get free agents for reasonable amounts, sign them early.
  8. Since the backup QB is both important and critical, but there are no game changing QBs in the draft, look for the Cowboys to make a trade or sign a splash free agent.
  9. It would not surprise me if the strong side linebacker and a backup corner are also addressed prior to the draft. That will give the Cowboys more flexibility to take the best player in the draft.
  10. Looking at the board and the Cowboys needs, it looks like the Cowboys are most likely to draft a defensive back or end with the fourth pick or trade down for additional picks. Depending where they draft down to, they can then go after Defensive Tackle (Three technique), Running Back, Offensive Tackle, Middle Linebacker, and Receiver.
  11. I would not be surprised to see the Cowboys trade down twice to pick up additional picks. For example, trade down to 10 for a second, then trade to 18 – 22 for a third and fourth. There will still be good players available at 20 for several needs and it could allow them to have as many as seven picks in the top 100 (first, two second, two third, and their 4th) as well as two additional fourths (from trade and compensatory) and four 6th rounders (their sixth plus three compensatory).
  12. I think two of the three most important and critical positions (DT, DE, Corner) are signed before the draft. The other remaining position will most likely be the first pick. I am predicting it will be a DE or Corner. One of the two will be the biggest signing in free agency and the second will be the first round pick.
  13. If corner or DE is to be addressed with the first pick then LB, receiver, and running back are the most likely picks for rounds 2-4.
  14. I believe a developmental guard, corner, and free safety are likely to be drafted in the later rounds.
  15. If the Cowboys do trade down to add picks, as in the scenario above, I believe they will pick up a developmental QB in rounds 2-4.

If the goal of the team is to win in the next three years then the strategy is to bring in players that can have impact now. But you do not want them around after three years. So I expect to see more free agent signings than in most years. If they sign more free agents, look for two or three year contracts.

I also look for them to draft down and pick up more picks.  If they drop down and pick up picks, they can afford to use an earlier one on a QB.

Now the goal is defined, and the strategy for accomplishing this being formulated, a plan can be made and executed. It is this plan that should help the Cowboys look at the critical holes and find actionable steps (players) to address them. Looking forward to starting to evaluate players. I will try to look at 5 a week between now and the draft.

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Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO. Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country. Tommy's hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews. For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

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Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury

Sean Martin

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Should Cowboys Start Negotiating a Contract Extension With Rod Smith?

Dallas Cowboys Linebacker Jaylon Smith did not just defy all odds and return to normalcy in 2017, starting as the Cowboys' middle linebacker for a full 16 games. He became one of the team's and NFL's brightest success stories, earning the right to celebrate everyday activities returning to his life - as football did this season.

Jaylon Smith on Twitter

It's been two years since I've been able to bowl! Man it feels good to have my hobby back. #ClearEyeView #Swipe #StillGotIt! 210 average🤷🏾‍♂️🙏🏾 https://t.co/euVsXDKS2a

This is exactly what Jaylon Smith did on Twitter Friday afternoon, posting a Snapchat video of himself bowling. The caption on Twitter adds that Smith was enjoying his time at the lanes for the first time in two years.

It was January 1st, 2016 when Jaylon Smith's injury in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame changed his outlook forever. In that moment, Smith went from a projected top ten pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to a LB that would need a team to take a chance on him - and be patient.

The Dallas Cowboys proved to be that team, using the 34th overall pick on the Notre Dame star and supporting his efforts to return to the field from day one. The entire Cowboys' organization was rewarded by Smith remarkably playing every game this season, inspired by his constant determination to do just that.

Are Dallas Cowboys Building A Championship Defense? 3

Dallas Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith

So, a normal offseason for Jaylon Smith is anything but right now. Still battling the drop foot condition (one that is reportedly healing well and "fading") which limits his movement ability in the lower body, Smith is a normal Dallas Cowboys football player from this point forward.

He can say he's already defined all odds, can expect to take an even bigger stride forward in 2018, and Jaylon Smith can go bowling again. You can't help but be happy for #54.

Tell us what you think about "Watch: Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith Goes Bowling for First Time Since College Injury" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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Dallas Cowboys

Will Cowboys WR Noah Brown Get Bigger Role in 2018?

Jess Haynie

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Noah Brown

While only a seventh-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, receiver Noah Brown was on the Cowboys' roster for all of his rookie season. He returns in 2018 hoping for a bigger role in Dallas' offense, and with some good possibility to get one.

Brown was not a big part of the 2017 offense. He was at the bottom of the WR depth chart, inactive for three games and not seen much even when in uniform.

Noah was only targeted nine times last year. He caught four passes for 33 yards.

Assumably, this had less to do with Brown and more with the other mouths to feed in the Cowboys passing game. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Brice Butler, even fellow rookie Ryan Switzer; you get the idea.

Noah Brown

Dallas Cowboys WR Noah Brown

2018 should remove at least one of those obstacles to Noah Brown's opportunities. Brice Butler is a free agent and there is no indication he is coming back.

Everyone else is still under contract, but that could change if the Cowboys start making any cuts to improve the salary cap. Bryant, Beasley, and even Witten, with varying degrees of probability, are all considerations as cap casualties in the next few months.

In the 2017 preseason, the 6'2", 220-pound Noah Brown reminded us of a young Dez Bryant. He has the same thick body and even showed some of the same punishing running style after the catch.

Of course, Noah hasn't shown nearly enough in college or as a rookie to say he could replace Dez. Nobody's suggesting that. But he has flashed the potential to be given more looks in the passing game.

Another way Brown could get on the field more next year is for run blocking. He has the size and power, and the Cowboys will certainly be leaning on the run with Ezekiel Elliott back and Dak Prescott needing to find his groove again.

Even if he moves up a notch from Brice Butler's exit, Noah Brown's primary way of staying active in 2018 will be through special teams. That was the key for him last year; Brown was active for 13 games because of his special teams work.

Hopefully, Noah can work his way into more targets next season. The Cowboys' receivers need to get younger and a seventh-round pick emerging would be tremendous value.

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Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense

Sean Martin

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Dallas Cowboys Search for Defensive Coaches Continues

With the hiring of Doug Nussmeier as their tight ends coach, the Dallas Cowboys' new look coaching staff is technically filled out for the 2018 season. Head Coach Jason Garrett, with coordinators Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli underneath him once again, will lead this team into battle with new coaches at LB, OL, QB, WR, TE, ST, and in the secondary.

Despite most of their changes coming on the offensive side of the ball - where the Cowboys certainly under performed in 2017 - the Cowboys did lose one of their most highest regarded defensive coaches in Matt Eberflus this offseason.

Given their personnel on Rod Marinelli's side of the ball, the Cowboys may have actually upgraded in replacing Eberflus with Kris Richard. The Cowboys' young secondary is sure to remain a hot topic all the way until training camp, now being led by the architect of the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom".

Clarence Hill Jr on Twitter

Cowboys are not done with coaching hires. Still trying to add defensive quality coach, per source

With Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli potentially entering his final season in the NFL though, the Cowboys' search for talented coaches on the defensive side of the ball is reportedly not yet over.

Already promoting a former quality control coach in Ben Bloom to fill Eberflus' role as linebackers coach, the Cowboys' commitment to finally building a top defense is exciting for Cowboys Nation. Another solid draft haul on this side of the ball could turn any spot on the defensive coaching staff here into a highly coveted one.

Not only having the talent in place to return to the playoffs in 2018, the Cowboys are looking to take full advantage of their current staff to secure a bright future for this young team in years to come.

Exactly who the Cowboys are targeting to hire remains unknown, but they did interview former DB Ray Horton prior to hiring Kris Richard. Horton carries six years of experience as a defensive coordinator, most recently holding the position in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns.

Jon Machota on Twitter

Cowboys coaching staff changes:

It is also important to note that Marinelli, known as a defensive line specialist, still holds this positional coaching job - a unit the Cowboys should also look to add an experienced coach to. The next Cowboys DC may still be added to the staff this offseason, if not done so already with Richard the heir apparent at the moment for Marinelli.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Continue Search for Coaching on Defense" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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