Getty Images

The 2024 offseason is an inflection point for the Dallas Cowboys with some major decisions looming on the horizon. 

The Cowboys entered the postseason with a 12-5 record. They were the NFC's No. 2 seed -- guaranteeing home playoff games for at least the first two rounds of the postseason -- and boasted the NFL's highest-scoring offense (29.9 points per game). Quarterback Dak Prescott led the NFL in touchdown passes (36), wide receiver CeeDee Lamb led the league in receptions (135) and they possessed the NFL's only perfect record at home (8-0). Edge rusher Micah Parsons led the NFL in quarterback pressures (103), quarterback pressure rate (21.8%) and pass-rush win rate (35.3%), which is when a defender beats his block in fewer than 2.5 seconds. 

None of it mattered in their 48-32 Super Wild Card Weekend faceplant against the seventh-seeded Green Bay Packers. Now, head coach Mike McCarthy enters 2024 on the final year of his contract with the franchise in a literal make-or-break season. Ditto for Prescott. However, he is set to have a $59.5 million cap hit in 2024, the second-highest in the NFL behind only Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson's $64 million, in the final year of his contract. Dallas will likely make a decision on him in the offseason via a restructure or extension. Decisions likely also need to be made on Lamb, who enters 2024 on his $17.9 million fully guaranteed fifth-year option, and Parsons, who after three NFL seasons is extension eligible for the first time in his career. 

Dallas doesn't have its own pick in rounds four through six. It traded its fourth-round selection to the 49ers in exchange for quarterback Trey Lance, the third-overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Cowboys sent the Chiefs their 2024 fifth-round pick in exchange for a 2023 sixth round pick that became cornerback Eric Scott Jr. Their sixth-round pick was sent to the Houston Texans as part of the package for wide receiver Brandin Cooks.   

Here is how the Cowboys should utilize the five draft picks they have currently. Dallas should receive a couple more compensatory picks, but those will be added to this mix when they become official later in the offseason. This strategy below projects the Cowboys to bring back starting running back Tony Pollard, defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore on affordable, one-year deals. Dallas has 16 unrestricted free agents entering the offseason. 

Cowboys' team needs: C, RB, CB, DT, OG  (via Josh Edwards)  

Cowboys' key unrestricted free agents: RB Tony Pollard, CB Stephon Gilmore, S Jayron Kearse, CB Jourdan Lewis, edge Dante Fowler Jr., DT Johnathan Hankins, CNB C.J. Goodwin, LS Trent Sieg, RB Rico Dowdle, C Tyler Biadasz, LT Tyron Smith, DL Dorance Armstrong

Cowboys 2024 draft picks

RoundOverall Pick








230 (acquired seventh-round pick from Raiders in trade for DT Johnathan Hankins)



Here's who the Cowboys will select 24th overall, according to CBS Sports' latest mock drafts:  

CBS Sports mock drafts


Chris Trapasso

Tyler Nubin



Josh Edwards

Troy Fautanu



Draft a top offensive line prospect early

Cowboys eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle and 2010's All-Decade Team member Tyron Smith is 33 and will be an unrestricted free agent with his contract voiding this offseason. Despite being hamstrung by various injuries over the years, Smith was able to suit for for 13 of the team's 17 regular season games as well as their playoff game against the Packers. In the regular season, Smith only allowed one sack and 16 quarterback pressures, barely more than one a game. His 89.9 Pro Football Focus pass-blocking grade led all NFL offensive tackles in 2023. McCarthy said the team will have an on-going dialogue about his future in Dallas this offseason, casting uncertainty about his future going forward. 

"I think the biggest thing for Tyron is, talking about the path of the season and the training plan that was in place for him, this is clearly his best season that I have experienced with him since 2020," McCarthy said Thursday at his end-of-season press conference. "So, he felt good about that. I think the fact that he's not going into the offseason with offseason surgeries is a plus. We'll continue to talk as we move forward."

Whether or not he returns, it would make sense for Dallas to prioritize long-term stability at the left tackle position. The Cowboys could also use improved run-blocking. Here are a few options at that spot. 

Amarius Mims -- listed at 6-foot-7 and 340 pounds -- allowed only seven quarterback pressures and no sacks in 377 total pass block snaps across 30 games (eight starts) at Georgia. He predominantly played right tackle in college, but he is a physical specimen whom Dallas could train to play left tackle in place of Smith. He made his first career start against Ohio State in the College Football Playoffs in the 2022 season and mauled the Buckeyes up front. Dallas could use this kind of blocker in its run game as well.

Jordan Morgan was an All-Pac-12 offensive tackle in each of the past two seasons, and he will be at the Senior Bowl. He only allowed just three sacks and 24 pressures in 2022 and 2023. As evidenced by the video footage below, he can hold up against NFL-caliber talent. Morgan and Tyler Smith could lock down the left side of Dallas' offensive line for the next decade. 

Washington's Troy Fautanu has some of the best footwork at his position in this 2024 draft class, as evidenced by clips of his tape below. He won the 2023 Morris Trophy for being the Pac-12's best offensive lineman as voted on by the conference's players. A third-team All-American who stands at 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds, Fautanu is a plug-and-play at left tackle.  

For more draft coverage, you can hear in-depth analysis twice a week on "With the First Pick" -- our year-round NFL Draft podcast with me and former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. You can find "With the First Pick" wherever you get your podcasts: Apple PodcastsSpotifyYouTube, etc. Check out the latest episode below!

Address the inside linebacker spot

Pro Bowl inside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffered a season-ending and perhaps career-ending neck injury in Week 5 at the San Francisco 49ers. Third-round rookie linebacker DeMarvion Overshown tore his ACL in training camp. He was expected to have a contributing defensive role right away. That left Damone Clark (6-foot-4, 240 pounds), Markquese Bell (a 6-foot-3, 205-pound converted safety) and safety Jayron Kearse (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) getting the bulk of the snaps at inside linebacker most of the year. There were times in practice at The Star, the team's headquarters in Frisco, Texas, where only one or two players were going through linebacker position drills because of injuries. 

That made the Dallas defense susceptible on the ground, something contenders like the San Francisco 49ers (170 rushing yards), Buffalo Bills (266 rushing yards) and Packers (143 rushing yards) all took advantage of. 

"I think just big picture-wise over the course of the year, we need to be better in both areas," McCarthy said of his team's ground game on offense and defense. "Those are the things with the training and how you do it and how you can improve there. We're not where we need to be in both areas."

Inside linebacker is a spot the Cowboys need to address in round two or three. Two of the top options are Clemson Tigers: Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. 

Carter (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is the best athlete in the 2024 linebacker group. That athleticism is why he was a five-star recruit entering college. Some teams may be a little leery of him as a prospect at the next level because he plays a similar role that Clemson alum and 2020 eighth overall draft pick Isaiah Simmons had in college: a jack-of-all trades -- lining up as an edge rusher, linebacker and defensive back. His coverage abilities in the middle of the field are high, making his play style a fit in the modern day NFL. Should Carter catch the eye of the right coaching staff, he could thrive in the pros.   

Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (6-foot, 230 pounds) plays like the son of an NFL All-Pro linebacker, which he is. His dad, Jeremiah Trotter, played 11 NFL seasons, earning four Pro Bowl selections and a 2000 first-team All-Pro nod across his eight years played with the Philadelphia Eagles (1998-2001, 2004-2006, 2009). Trotter is strong at anticipating pass-rush gaps when asked to blitz as well as throwing lanes when in coverage. His tackling technique and positioning are fundamentally sound, which makes it easy to project him as a starting-caliber player at the next level.   

Find a backfield mate for Tony Pollard

Tony Pollard
TEN • RB • #20
View Profile

In 2022, Cowboys running back Tony Pollard led the NFL in scrimmage yards per touch (5.9) among players with at least 200 touches, a figure that was the most by a Cowboys player since Herschel Walker's 6.0 scrimmage yards/touch back in 1987. 

However, he couldn't maintain that efficiency on a larger volume in 2023, the first season after the fibula injury he suffered in the 2022 NFC divisional round at the 49ers. Pollard totaled 1,378 yards from scrimmage on 232 touches in 2022 for that league-high 5.9-yards-per-touch clip. In 2023, Pollard's yards per touch dropped by 1.6 (down to 4.3) after he went for 1,316 yards from scrimmage on a career-high 307 touches the year before. All year long, he maintained he felt normal, but he didn't pass the eye test on the field. Simply put, he lacked the same juice.

Provided he re-signs on a one-year, prove-it deal in 2024, he could likely use someone to split the backfield workload with. Two options could be Wisconsin's Braelon Allen and Texas' Jonathan Brooks. 

Allen (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) can be the thunder to Pollard's lightning (6-foot-0, 209 pounds). His anticipation and vision at the line of scrimmage were some of the best in the nation, as he hit the hole right as it was opening up at high frequency, which allowed him to gain the most amount of yards possible on a play. Even though he could have easily leaned on his overpowering frame to win most of his battles at the line of scrimmage, Allen's agility shined through plenty when aggressively bursting through an opening. Allen joined fellow Badger Jonathan Taylor as the only Big Ten running backs since 2014 with three seasons of at least a 5.25 yards per carry rate and double-digit touchdowns with at least 150 carries each year. Wear and tear isn't an issue, as he'll enter his NFL rookie season as a 20 year old.

Brooks (6-foot-0, 207 pounds) is a similarly sized player to Pollard, and he can provide plenty of juice as evidenced by this touchdown run at TCU. His agility is a high-level trait. However, he did tear his ACL in the Longhorns' game at TCU on Nov. 11. Dallas does have an inside track on his recovery, though. Dr. Dan Cooper, of the renowned Cooper Clinic, did Brooks' procedure, and he doubles as the team's head doctor. 

Brooks also officially committed to attend the 2024 East-West Shrine Bowl, which is now held at The Star, the Cowboys' team practice facility in Frisco, Texas. Plenty of chances for the Cowboys to evaluate the elusive running back.