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.
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.
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 also 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.”
Led by rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys won the NFC East with a league-best tying 13-3 record.
However, they missed out on the 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.
... 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.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
The Cowboys have then watched a number of players walk away in free agency for more money and better opportunities.
Again, Jones is nonplussed.
“I think you have to make some assumptions,” Jones said. “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.
Coach Jason Garrett is in lockstep with Jones in believing the Cowboys are built to continue their success because of the work they have done in past years in acquiring cornerstone players for the future who not only play the right way but also have the right attitude.
“We believe very strongly in the core of our football team — the cornerstone players who we’ve drafted, guys who have been really good players for us for a long time,” Garrett said. “They’re the right kind of guys, they’re outstanding players, among the best at their position in the National Football League, guys who love football, guys who want to get better, guys who want to be part of a team.
“Those are the kind of guys we have on our team. So we certainly have to make some additions. The draft will be the avenue that we’ll make most of our additions. We’ve got to make good decisions and then just keep moving forward.”
We believe very strongly in the core of our football team — the cornerstone players who we’ve drafted, guys who have been really good players for us for a long time.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
Like Garrett, Jones readily admits the Cowboys need to get better, especially on defense, and vows they will through the NFL Draft, which is April 27-29.
That has been the plan all around. It’s how they approached the off-season when it came to their free agent departures.
Jones says they have no plans on taking a step back when it comes to keeping up with the rest of the teams in the NFC East and being better in 2017.
“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.”
Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr