Dallas Cowboys

What setbacks? Jerry Jones says Cowboys are better than last season

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says drafting No. 4 overall doesn’t rule anything out in terms of what position Dallas will select.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says drafting No. 4 overall doesn’t rule anything out in terms of what position Dallas will select. Star-Telegram

Jerry Jones once said, “Just ’cause I say it doesn’t make it so.”

That’s a general catch-all phrase for life with the Dallas Cowboys under the ownership of Jones since 1989.

It goes double this time of year — during free agency and before the draft.

This is where misinformation is actually considered a strategy.

Of course, the thing with the Cowboys is that it’s often hard to tell truth shrouded in fiction and vice versa. Jones is naturally and admittedly prone to hyperbole.

video by Clarence Hill Jr.

The Cowboys have taken more losses in free agency than the rapper Meek Mill and the comedian Katt Williams.

We’re addressing specific areas that we need — I’m hesitant to use depth, we just need contributions.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, on free agency signees

Just don’t talk about free-agency setbacks to Jones, who says he is happy with what the Cowboys have done and believes they are already a better team than at the end of last season’s 4-12 campaign.

“Yes. Both, to answer the question. Yes,” Jones said at the NFL owners meetings this week in Boca Raton, Fla.

“We’re addressing specific areas that we need — I’m hesitant to use depth, we just need contributions. We’re certainly going to play a lot of guys, and where we’ve brought some of these guys in — whether it be at running back, whether it be defensive line — we need some numbers. And we’re getting them.”

They have done much of their work in free agency re-signing their own players such as linebacker Rolando McClain, cornerback Morris Claiborne, running back Lance Dunbar, linebacker Kyle Wilber and tight end James Hanna.

Getting the band back together, however, is not the recipe for a championship.

They have added three outside free agents in defensive end Benson Mayowa, running back Alfred Morris and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton.

Of those three, only Thornton can be considered a walk-in starter and a definite upgrade.

The Cowboys have drawn more attention about their free-agent failures. They have brought in three cornerbacks for a visit but none signed with Dallas.

The Cowboys have drawn more attention about their free-agent failures. They have brought in three cornerbacks for a visit — Nolan Carroll, Leon Hall and Patrick Robinson — in hopes of finally parting ways with Brandon Carr and his big contract. None signed with Dallas. Robinson left the team in a lurch, signing with the Indianapolis Colts after agreeing in principle to a deal with the Cowboys.

The Cowboys reached out to free safety Eric Weddle and defensive end Chris Long, but both declined to even visit Dallas before signing with the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, respectively.

Pass rusher was the team’s biggest need at the start of free agency and it remains the biggest need roughly a month away from the draft, set for April 28-30, in Chicago.

Quarterback and cornerback remain huge needs as well, which is why Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Florida State cornerback Jalen Ramsey, North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz and California quarterback Jared Goff are trendy projections to the Cowboys in mock drafts.

Dallas has the fourth overall selection and will begin the draft with nine picks.

“I don’t want to get that succinct on [No.] 4 — but it really doesn’t rule anything out,” Jones said. “The facts are that 4 is a different kind of decision. That 4 pick, that’d be a pretty extraordinary decision.”

Yet, Jones said they have done enough in free agency to pick the best available player with the fourth overall selection.

“Yes, I think we can,” Jones said.

That answer was followed up by this caveat: Jones said the Cowboys might lean toward position preference over best player.

“Those position preferences are probably areas of quarterback, pressure player and corner,” Jones said. “You might go a position preference over one that’s higher on the board.

“I don’t think we have to draft a cornerback. I don’t think we have to draft a pressure player. The reason you don’t have to draft a pressure player early is because of depth. There is depth in the defensive line. Now the question is whether there is anybody there that is the pressure player without issues.”

There are issues at defensive end, even with the addition Mayowa.

DeMarcus Lawrence, who had a team-leading eight sacks last season, is coming off back surgery. Randy Gregory, a 2015 second-round pick who had no sacks as a rookie, will miss the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse program.

Meanwhile, defensive ends Greg Hardy, Jack Crawford and Jeremy Mincey are free agents.

The Cowboys are working to get Crawford back, said coach Jason Garrett.

But as far as Hardy is concerned?

“Greg’s a free agent,” Garrett said. “We’re focused on some other guys right now.”

The Cowboys could revisit the Greg Hardy situation in May or June if they don’t get a defensive end in the draft.

Months after calling Hardy an inspirational player and leader, Jones is now mum on a possible return.

“Just leave it like it is, just leave it like it is,” Jones said.

The Cowboys could revisit the Hardy situation in May or June if they don’t get an end in the draft.

It all begs the question: How are the Cowboys improved over last season?

Quarterback Tony Romo, receiver Dez Bryant and cornerback Orlando Scandrick all played big roles in 2014 when the Cowboys went 12-4, but missed a combined 35 games last season because of injuries. They should be healthy and ready to go next season.

That combined with the rookie draft haul is what Jones is banking on for a bounce-back season.

Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr

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