A Cowboys team needing to upgrade defense has lost seven of its 10 free agents on that side of the ball.
Jerry Jones want’s to entertain. And you do that with Offense.
Every team in the NFL strives for balance. But every team leans toward one side of the ball or the other as they work to make the other unit as competitive as possible.
The Cowboys team identity is clear. You win with Offense. Keeping that core is key although you would like for them to improve on the defensive side of the ball as well.
You have seen it this offseason not only in the players the team has lost, but in the ones it has retained. Five of the six free agents the Cowboys have kept are on offense. Defensive lineman David Irving is the only exception.
You saw it in last year’s draft. Despite the team’s defensive shortcomings, the Cowboys spent their first-round pick on running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Two years ago coming off a 12-4 season, and desperately needing a defensive boost, five of the eight players the team lost in free agency were on defense. Three — defensive end George Selvie and linebackers Bruce Carter and Justin Durant — were starters.
The Cowboys’ offense returns 10 of the 11 starters it had on opening day last season. Remember, La’el Collins opened at left guard for the first three games before his season-ending injury let Ron Leary in the lineup.
The lone loss is right tackle Doug Free, who has informed the club that he intends to retire.
Free and Leary combined to start 28 games for the Cowboys’ offensive line in 2016. That means the team must replace 40 percent of its offensive line.
But keep in mind: Left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick are signed to long-term contracts. Right guard Zack Martin will join them this offseason. They are the Pro Bowl anchors to what many consider the NFL’s best offensive line.
It’s not fiscally feasible in today’s salary-cap world to sink too much money into one area of the team. Smith, Frederick and Martin form the nucleus of the offensive line. The Cowboys will have to manage the other two positions to have the money they need to spread around to other spots.
And that brings us back to defense. Five players who started seven or more games are gone. The seven players the Cowboys lost on that side of the ball accounted for 64 starts last season.
Cornerback Nolan Carroll, defensive tackle Stephen Paea and defensive end Damontre Moore have been signed to offset those losses. Those three combined for 17 starts last season.
Carroll, who should slide into Brandon Carr’s role, had 16 of them.
Terrell McClain was the Cowboys’ most effective interior defensive lineman. But Paea, veteran Cedric Thornton and second-year pro Maliek Collins should be able to compensate for his loss.
Jack Crawford was a versatile defensive lineman. But Irving has a greater upside and appears ready to step into those cleats.
Losing four of the top six players in the secondary is something the Cowboys didn’t want. The team intends to compensate through a draft that’s strong and deep in this area. The need to get younger and quicker here is essential.
Still, that’s a lot to replace. The margin of error is slim. The Cowboys will now turn their full attention to defensive upgrades.
That’s because the offense remains largely intact.
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