While the Dallas Cowboys have largely sat out free agency, save a few bargain basement additions, for salary cap reasons, they haven't had their heads in the sand about what has taken place around them.
The Cowboys have watched teams across the league, but most notably in the own division of the NFC East, aggressively make moves to improve their teams.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says he is keenly aware and not surprised that their division foes have gotten better.
But Jones is unafraid because he said the Cowboys aren't done with making moves to better themselves and vows that his team will be improved enough at the start of the season to not only compete for the division title again, but make a deep run in the playoffs.
"It’s not a surprise," Jones said. "It was expected we would be dealing with improving teams in our division. But I feel, and this isn’t just arm waving or blind optimism, but I feel at the end of the day when we get to training camp we will be an improved team from where we were last year. We want to get better. We have room to get better. It’s competitive. It was pretty evident that any improvement is stepping in the right direction relative to the kind of year we had last year."
Led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys won the NFC East with league-best tying 13-3 record.
However, they missed out on NFC title game and a possible trip to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995 with a loss to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs.
The Cowboys have then watched a number of players walk away in free agency for more money and better opportunities, including cornerbacks Brandon Carr (Baltimore Ravens) and Morris Claiborne (New York Jets), safeties Barry Church (Jacksonville Jaguars) and J.J. Wilcox (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), defensive end Jack Crawford (Atlanta Falcons), defensive tackle Terrell McClain (Washington Redskins) and guard Ron Leary (Denver Broncos).
That is not including the retirement of tackle Doug Free and the looming departure of former starting quarterback Tony Romo via trade, release or retirement.
Again, Jones is nonplussed.
"I think you have to make some assumptions," Jones said. "We sheded some obligations too, and that may be an asset and opportunity, whether it be (salary cap) room or room on the roster. I’m not trying to be cute, but I would say we certainly have created more options in my mind than we’ve lost."
Jones believes the Cowboys will be competitive again because of the youthful core of the team, led by Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, receiver Dez Bryant and the best offensive line in the league.
But he readily admits the Cowboys need to get better, especially on defense, and vows they will get better through the upcoming NFL Draft, which is April 27-29.
"It’s been my experience that you look at your numbers, and we have, we’ve spent a lot of time looking between the Senior bowl and the combine and the work getting ready for that," Jones said "We’re pretty familiar with who is going to be in the caliber of players in the draft. We’re going to have the opportunity through the draft to get better. I would expect to get better."