Now that the Super Bowl has been played and free agency is approaching in a few weeks, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team. Today, the Dallas Cowboys are the focus. The Cowboys have the fourth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and a few key players will hit the free agency market this year, most notably defensive end Greg Hardy, cornerback Morris Claiborne, and inside linebacker Rolando McClain.
Dallas Cowboys 2016 Off-Season – Top 3 Needs
Morris Claiborne is a free agent and Brandon Carr might be a cap casualty, so this position could use some help. Byron Jones did well at safety, so it’s unlikely that the Cowboys will move him back to cornerback. Orlando Scandrick is returning from a serious injury and he is expected to be a starter, but major knee injuries are difficult to ignore. Unless the Cowboys re-sign Claiborne or decide to retain Carr, Dallas will need to sign or draft a starter. However, an upgrade for either player would be the best option even if one or both return.
If Dallas wants to spend some money in free agency, there are definitely some capable cornerbacks who could start immediately. Trumaine Johnson or Janoris Jenkins would probably be the top options, but Sean Smith and Prince Amukamara are names to consider as well. With the fourth pick in the draft, Jalen Ramsey is the top option. He definitely has the talent to start immediately and would be tough to pass up if he is available.
Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, and Nick Hayden are free agents, so the Cowboys are going to need some depth players along the defensive line at worst. Demarcus Lawrence underwhelmed in 2015 and Randy Gregory is suspended for the first four games of 2016 already, so this unit is a bit shaken up at the moment. Luckily Tyrone Crawford is a solid starting defensive tackle and he will return next season. However, the Cowboys were toward the bottom of the league with only 31 sacks last season, so change is needed.
Since Hardy is almost certainly gone, an impact pass rusher is desperately needed. He accounted for nearly 20 percent of the team’s sacks last year, but the locker room trouble that he caused hurt the team greatly. A dominant defensive lineman like Joey Bosa would be nearly impossible for this team to pass up, but he will probably be drafted in the top three. Bosa is probably the only defensive lineman the Cowboys would select in the first round unless the team trades down, but don’t be surprised if Dallas drafts a pass rusher in the second or third round. Free agency is another avenue the Cowboys could explore, and Chris Long and William Hayes are two free agent defensive ends that could be signed for a reasonable amount.
I was tempted to put linebacker here, but running back has been the topic of many discussions this off-season. Joseph Randle is long gone, as he committed a few too many crimes to remain in Dallas. Darren McFadden had a surprisingly effective season, but he turns 29 in August and he is definitely not a long-term solution. Depth players Lance Dunbar and Robert Turbin are both free agents.
I will be shocked if Dallas decides to draft a running back in the first round, even if the team trades down. However, players like Derrick Henry, Devontae Booker, Alex Collins, and Paul Perkins could be reasonable selections in the second or third round. In free agency, Lamar Miller seems to be the fan favorite, as he is only 25 in April. A young player with his talent would thrive behind the talented offensive line in Dallas.