The NFL combine is among us, and just as pro football's answer to the Olympics gets underway, it is an opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys to address some needs.
1. Defensive line
In light of the fact defensive end Randy Gregory was suspended for the fourth time for violation of the league's substance abuse policy, receiving an indefinite suspension on Tuesday, and the fact talented defensive lineman David Irving can't get out of the kudzu that entangled him in the 2018 offseason, the Cowboys need help along the defensive line.
Dallas can't throw a first-round pick at the problem, as that pick now rests with the Oakland Raiders — or receiver Amari Cooper, if you ask the Joneses. Dallas will have to really evaluate second-round and other day two-to-day three talent to figure out who they like.
Is Boston College's Zach Allen worth their time? Even though Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell is slated to go in the first round, what if he falls? Would Ferrell's teammate in Austin Bryant be someone that the Cowboys should have interest in? It wasn't a pressing need before the combine, at least a far as the general public knows, but it is now, and Dallas needs to address it.
2. Tight end
Dallas doesn't have the TE1 that they were hoping for. Blake Jarwin had a strong finish to the season, and Geoff Swaim is a good leader to have in the room. However, they don't have the go-to player that they had in Jason Witten.
Former Iowa Hawkeye tight end T.J. Hockenson could be that guy, but the question is whether he falls to the second round. He also split time with Noah Fant, another name Dallas should keep in mind. While Iowa has been TE U as of late with C.J. Fiedorowicz and George Kittle, so has Alabama with O.J. Howard. How does Irv Smith Jr. look? There will be considerable interest, at least in this part of the world, involving former Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger. While he may not be a second-rounder, he could be a third- or fourth-round option for Dallas.
3. Free agency
Aside from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., the combine is the one place where all 32 teams' front offices, coaches, and scouts are in the same vicinity as the prospects and agents. By the way, those agents also represent players on those respective teams. It's the final incidental face-to-face the Cowboys will have with defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence's representatives along with quarterback Dak Prescott's.
The Ezekiel Elliott extension isn't too much of an issue given Dallas still has the fifth year option they can deploy. However, they have to make sure the die is cast favorably, particularly with the Lawrence extension, before they leave Indianapolis. The Prescott extension may happen throughout the course of the offseason and possibly occur near the end of training camp.
The Cowboys have until 3:00 p.m. Central Time on March 5 to designate their franchise players. Dallas would like to get the Lawrence deal wrapped up before then. If they have to "tag" Lawrence by that deadline, it is only to preserve their exclusive negotiating rights, and the new deadline is July 15 at 3:00 p.m. Central. That date is significant because if players and clubs do not reach an extension by then, they cannot negotiate again until the next offseason.
The NFL combine is an exciting time, but it isn't just about the draft. As the 30th year of the Joneses owning the Cowboys is upon us, they are no strangers to its intricacies and will look to work every advantage.
What do you want to hear from the Cowboys at the NFL scouting combine in Indy this week? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.