Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys were aiming to get younger and improve the defense during the three-day draft that netted nine players, and he is optimistic that happened.
“No question,” he said, asked if the team improved itself. “We are younger. We are better. We will have over 30 players, between our draft picks and our free agents, that’s one-third of our team drafted or signed over the last three days.”
Jones said the organization believed it needed to get younger and wants to see what it has in its newest players.
“We feel like, hey, we need to get younger,” he said. “We need to give some young guys a chance to show.”
The Cowboys selected seven defensive players in the group of nine, going so far as to trade a third-round pick for the chance to move up 13 spots in the second round and select defensive end Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State.
“We weren’t opposed to helping the offense, but obviously our bent when we came into the draft was to help the defense, and I think obviously, we took a lot of picks and did well there, and I think we got [defensive coodinator] Rod [Marinelli] a lot of defensive linemen to work with and a couple of linebackers there that we think that can really help us out, and actually got a secondary guy. We’re pleased.”
Although Anthony Hitchens was rated as a sixth- or seventh-round pick by many evaluators, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team drafted the Iowa linebacker in the fourth round Saturday because he can step in for middle linebacker Sean Lee.
“We saw a guy who could run with size, and we saw one of the few inside linebackers that we thought could come in here and help us if we lost Sean Lee,” Jones said.
“So we saw a guy who could definitely improve us from where we were last year when we lost Sean Lee.”
Lee missed five games last year because of leg and neck injuries and 10 games two years ago because of a broken toe.
Jones felt so compelled to find a backup for Lee that the Cowboys used their fourth pick on a player not valued nearly as high as other teams.
“With all due respect to the other evaluators, I would say that there is a lot of difference in a lot of players when you start getting in that fourth round, between this player or that player and whether we would have taken him,” Jones said. “I’d say that’s the difference in the eye of the beholder. He was productive.”
The Cowboys won’t confirm the signings of undrafted free agents until all of the contracts are signed, but the players’ social media accounts and other sources indicate at least 24 players are signed or planning to sign.
They include West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan, who will help provide an arm at the rookie minicamp on Friday and Saturday, Texas defensive tackle Chris Whaley and Texas A&M running back Ben Malena.
Offensive players include guards Ronald Patrick of South Carolina, Andre Cureton of Cincinnati and Brian Clarke of Bloomsburg; tackles Josh Aladenoye of Illinois State and Jerrod Pughsley of Akron; receivers Chris Boyd of Vanderbilt and L’Damian Washington of Missouri; running back Glasco Martin of Baylor; fullback J.C. Copeland of LSU; tight ends Jordan Navjar of Baylor and Evan Wilson of Illinois.
Defensive players include tackles Davon Coleman of Arizona State and Joe Windsor of Northern Illinois; cornerbacks Dashaun Phillips of Tarleton State and Jocquel Skinner of Bethel; linebackers Dontavis Sapp of Tennessee and Keith Smith of San Jose State; and safeties Ryan Smith of Auburn and Marvin Robinson of Ferris State; plus punter Cody Mandell of Alabama and long snapper Casey Kreiter of Iowa.