It has been one of the most odd and controversial offseasons in Dallas Cowboys history, but they're hoping things go more swimmingly when they get to the 2022 NFL Draft. Having entered free agency with a plan that's not exactly going as planned and, as a result, grading poorly overall because of it, the weight of stellar execution during the draft is heavier than usual -- considering the decision to trade Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns, release starting right tackle La'el Collins and, of course, the toxic split from defensive end Randy Gregory (whom they tried desperately to retain ... twice).
So where do the Cowboys go from here? Having actually taken a step or two backward in building this year's roster and, as such, creating needs at additional positions -- e.g., wide receiver, defensive end -- they'll need to get creative with their nine draft picks; and that might include a trade or two to move up and grab a falling but talented prospect.
Speaking from the NFL's 2022 annual meetings in Florida, owner Jerry Jones shed some light on the team's draft blueprint.
"I think that I wouldn't dismiss a great opportunity with a pass rusher," he said, via the team's website. "Obviously, I'd like to have a young offensive lineman at the positions that you could immediately come in and play."
Owners of the 24th overall pick, there are a few directions the Cowboys could go in the first round, but it sounds as if they're more committed to selecting an offensive lineman than a pass rusher (possibly grabbing the latter in the second round), although nothing is written in stone -- as learned by last year's decision to trade down and select Micah Parsons after losing out on both Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn, or to grab a falling CeeDee Lamb the year prior.
None of this is lost on the Hall of Fame owner, who isn't afraid to pivot at a moment's notice but, for now, Jones has eyes on protecting Dak Prescott with his first-round pick. The last time they selected an offensive lineman in the first round was perennial All-Pro guard Zack Martin (2014), following former All-Pro center Travis Frederick in (2013), who followed All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith (2011) -- three moves that defined the Cowboys' offensive line for the better part of a decade.
They've been much less successful, however, in hitting on O-line prospects outside of the first round but still within the parameters of the top 100, with names like Chaz Green (third round, 2015), Connor Williams (third round, 2018) and Connor McGovern (second round, 2019) all standing as black eyes on an otherwise strong recent draft résumé.
And with Collins now in Cincinnati while Williams heads to Miami, combined with durability issues on Smith, it's no secret the Cowboys' offensive line has gone from prominence in the 2010s to dire straits in the 2020s.
Jones aims to address it with high priority in late April.
"Famous last words: We'll get [an offensive lineman] unless Lamb or Parsons is there."