But this year it’s a need —considering the free-agent losses on defense and the emphasis put on replacing them in the 2017 NFL Draft, headlined by defensive end Taco Charlton (first round), cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (second round) and cornerback Jordan Lewis (third round).
The Cowboys have helped the process along by getting eight of their nine draft picks signed to deals before the start of rookie minicamp, which began Friday and runs through Sunday.
“Yeah, it’s important,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Get the business side taken care of the right way for both sides, then focus in on what they need to do to make this football team.
Charlton, Awuzie, receiver Noah Brown (Ohio State), defensive tackles Joey Ivey (Florida) and Jordan Carrell (Colorado); receiver Ryan Switzer (North Carolina), cornerback Marquez White (Florida State) and safety Xavier Woods (Louisiana Tech) practiced under contract Friday.
The lone unsigned rookie is Lewis, and that has more to do with a league-wide issue concerning third-round compensation than an unwillingness to get a deal done.
Charlton is the Cowboys’ first top pick to be signed before the rookie minicamp since 1989, when the Cowboys signed Troy Aikman before drafting him No. 1 overall.
To get the top pick signed so soon along with so many other selections speaks to the ease of negotiations since the advent of the rookie salary cap, but also the need to have them ready to play early.
There is pressure on Charlton to have an immediate impact on a Cowboys defense that has struggled with getting to the quarterback. However, he doesn’t feel it.
“It’s not really pressure,” Charlton said before his first minicamp practice. “I mean, this is what I do. I play football and I’m good at this game. I feel like I’ve been put in a good situation. I’ve got great coaches. With the coaches I have, I feel like the sky is the limit for me.”
Awuzie showed up Thursday to get a physical and sign his contract. He then returned to Colorado for his college graduation Friday, but was expected back for practice Saturday morning.
It was important to Awuzie and his family that he participate in graduation, and the Cowboys agreed.
“We thought it was the right thing to do,” Garrett said.
▪ Suspended linebacker Rolando McClain, who was on the Cowboys’ roster last season but hasn’t played since 2015, was arrested after a police stop in Hartselle, Ala. Police said he was pulled over about 1 p.m. Friday because his car’s window tint was too dark. He faces charges of second-degree possession of marijuana and carrying a pistol without a permit.
▪ Former Arkansas offensive lineman Dan Skipper is one of eight tryout players in the minicamp. The 6-foot-10 Skipper revealed a blood condition to the Cowboys. A doctor checked him out before clearing him to practice.
▪ Diminutive running back Kade Harrington (5-6, 184 pounds) is in for a tryout. The former Lamar University standout caught the eye of the Cowboys scouts. “Obviously, size is an issue for him, but we want to give him a chance,” Garrett said.