Defensive line, linebacker, safety, WR among needs
By JOHN MCCLAIN
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
This has turned into a terrific offseason for the Dallas Cowboys, who were such a huge disappointment in Bill Parcells' second season as coach.
The Cowboys have restocked the starting lineup with such veterans as quarterback Drew Bledsoe, guard Marco Rivera, nose tackle Jason Ferguson and cornerback Anthony Henry.
During this weekend's draft, the Cowboys figure to improve even more with a pair of first-round draft choices — 11th and 20th overall — among their eight selections.
Something that weighs heavily on their decisions will be Parcells' plan to use a 4-3 and a 3-4 defense.
"We talk about the impact a player would have on either," owner Jerry Jones said.
Jones and Parcells haven't given up on trading for New Orleans defensive end Darren Howard, a classic outside rusher in a 4-3.
Parcells could use another 3-4 lineman, at least one big outside linebacker who can rush the quarterback in passing situations, a wide receiver who can stretch the defense with his speed, a safety to replace the retired Darren Woodson and a right offensive tackle.
The top 3-4 outside linebackers are Maryland's Shawne Merriman and Troy State's DeMarcus Ware. The best 3-4 linemen are LSU end Marcus Spears and Florida State tackle Travis Johnson.
Oklahoma receiver Mark Clayton might fill one need, and his teammate, safety Brodney Pool, could be an ideal replacement for Woodson.
"We've just got to take advantage of this opportunity," Jones said about having two first-round picks. "We paid a little price last year by trading our No. 1, but I think that because of where we are under the cap, this created an opportunity.
"This is the best offseason of opportunity that I can remember having all these tools to reshape our team. You add all that up, and we could be a real different team than the one we ended up the year with against the Giants."
Since 1993, the Cowboys have traded their No. 1 pick 10 times. They have no players on the roster who were selected in 2000 and 2001.
"The idea of putting together a team just exclusively through the draft isn't really the prudent way to go about it," Jones said. "I took that into account when I made the commitment I made in free agency."
The Cowboys have drafted better in recent years. They picked safety Roy Williams in 2002, cornerback Terence Newman and tight end Jason Witten in 2003 and running back Julius Jones last season.
But those players are just four of six starters from the last four drafts. The good thing is that the Cowboys have options.
"Everything has to be weighed on our record the last four or five years," Jones said. "We haven't been to a Super Bowl since the 1995 season."