INDIANAPOLIS — Vice president Stephen Jones said the Dallas Cowboys will not be as active in free agency in 2013 as they were last year when they signed a record eight players, including cornerback Brandon Carr to whopping $50.1 million contract.The Cowboys are roughly $20 million over the proposed 2013 salary cap and will have to restructure some contracts of current players just to get in compliance and create room to sign their draft picks.“We will get under that cap,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, you can’t go into the free-agent market like we did last year every year. The cap won’t allow you do it. We won’t be as big of players this year.”Jones says the Cowboys can do what they want if the need arises, but he believes the best thing the team can do in the offseason to improve from last season’s 8-8 campaign is get healthy.The Cowboys lost four defensive starters to season-ending injuries, including linebackers Bruce Carter, Sean Lee, safety Barry Church and defensive end Kenyon Coleman. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff played in only six games because of injuries, and nickle cornerback Orlando Scandrick was sidelined the last month of the season with a fractured wrist.That doesn’t include injuries to receivers Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley in the season finale that severely hampered their ability to come back in the division-deciding loss at Washington.“We just need to get healthy,” Jones said. “That will improve our team a lot.”Safety helpCowboys vice president Stephen Jones said the team’s biggest need as it moves from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense is at safety because of last season’s injuries to Barry Church and rookie Matt Johnson and the possible release of veteran Gerald Sensabaugh.“If there is a need on defense, to me the biggest need is going to be safety,” Jones said. “You got Church coming off an Achilles, and obviously we really like everything we saw in Matt Johnson other than he couldn’t get healthy. We still don’t know about him, but we like him a lot and we would still spend a fourth-round pick on him if not higher knowing what we know. When you got two young guys coming off injuries, you can’t count on that.”Asked if Sensabaugh could be a cap casualty, Jones said anything was possible. Sensabaugh has a base salary of $3 million next season.“We will continue to look at that — what his cap is and what that means,” Jones said. “I don’t rule out anybody. Obviously, there are some that are in. Tyron Smith, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware — guys like that are going to be here. Everybody else — you evaluate their situation.”Cowboys look at guardsThe Cowboys signed two free-agent guards last off-season, giving Mackenzy Bernadeau a four-year, $11 million contract and Nate Livings a five-year, $19 million deal. Yet they could be back in the market for a guard in the 2013 draft.Team personnel began getting a look at the draft’s top guards Thursday. Alabama’s Chance Warmack and North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper could be top-10 picks, and Kentucky’s Larry Warford has seen his stock rise.Only 14 guards have been selected in the first round of the past 16 drafts. Only two were top 14 choices, and that includes Leonard Davis.The Arizona Cardinals drafted Davis with the second overall pick in 2001 with plans to turn him into a tackle, a position he played for three seasons. The New Orleans Saints used the 10th overall pick on Colorado guard Chris Naeole in 1997.“Being taken in the top 10 — I would be ecstatic, and that would be the icing on top to be the first guard taken in the top 10 since ’97,” Cooper said. “…There are a bunch of great guards in this draft.”Tannehill makes stridesRyan Tannehill didn’t get the publicity that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson did as rookies, but the Miami Dolphins were pleased with the progress the former Texas A&M star made.Tannehill, 24, went 7-9 in starting almost as many games in the NFL as he did at quarterback in college (19). He completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 3,294 yards with 12 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 76.1 passer rating.“Ryan’s got 35 games under his belt as a starting quarterback combined from a college and pro career,” Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. “And you’d normally like to have 35 games under your belt as a graduating senior, so I still think there’s a bunch of upside left in Ryan’s potential. I like what I see so far. I love his intangible makeup. I love his athletic skill set. We have a long way to go. He knows that. But he can get a lot better. I’m very confident in that.”The Dolphins will attempt to build around Tannehill this offseason, holding $46 million in cap space and nine draft picks.
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760 Twitter: @clarencehilljr