IRVING, Texas (AP) Owner Jerry Jones says running back isn’t an urgent need in the draft for Dallas after losing NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray in free agency.
The Cowboys also say the 10-game suspension for defensive end Greg Hardy over his domestic violence case wasn’t a surprise, and therefore doesn’t change the outlook on pass-rushing help.
The first round Thursday night could offer a different answer to one of those questions. The Cowboys have the 27th pick.
Dallas signed former top 10 pick Darren McFadden not long after Murray bolted for NFC East rival Philadelphia in March.
But the former Arkansas star rushed for 1,000 yards just once in seven seasons with Oakland, and the younger backs on the Cowboys roster are unproven.
One of them, Joseph Randle, faces the possibility of charges in a domestic violence case in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas.
Still, Jones said he’s comfortable starting the season with what he has.
”We don’t have that as a must to come out of here with a running back,” Jones said Tuesday.
Asked if there was a must, Jones said defense, which could mean something besides improving one of the league’s weakest pass rushes from a season ago.
The Cowboys have issues at cornerback, with high-priced free agent Brandon Carr coming off his first season without an interception and Morris Claiborne also struggling.
Dallas moved up in the 2012 draft to get Claiborne at No. 6, and he’s fallen far short of expectations. Now he’s unlikely to be ready for training camp after tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee in Week 4 last season.
”It almost is hard for me to put a plan in place as to the defense or offense,” said Jones, referring to last year’s pick of offensive lineman Zack Martin when Dallas needed defensive help first.
”So that one certainly wouldn’t have been planned out if we were here talking … two or three days before we’d take him, from my perspective.”
Things to consider as the Cowboys hold the same draft spot from the last time they were defending NFC East champions in 2010, when they traded up three spots to grab Dez Bryant:
PETERSON QUESTION: Jerry Jones wouldn’t touch a question that specifically mentioned the possibility of a trade for Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson because he’s not allowed to comment on another player. But the owner did say it was ”highly unlikely” the Cowboys would trade for a veteran player.
LINEBACKER OUTLOOK: Dallas drafted Anthony Hitchens in the fourth round last year, calling it insurance for oft-injured former second-rounder Sean Lee. Sure enough, Lee went down with a season-ending knee injury in the first offseason workout. Hitchens had a solid rookie season, and former top 10 pick Rolando McClain was a success as an acquisition made in desperation before training camp. Along with other depth, the position appears to be less of a priority.
ROMO’S REPLACEMENT: Tony Romo turned 35 last week, bringing more credence to the question of whether Dallas should draft and groom a replacement. The Cowboys restructured Romo’s contract to clear salary cap space, essentially committing to him through 2017. If Dallas adds a quarterback, it’s likely to be lower since it figures to be someone who won’t play for a few years.
INTERIOR DESIGNS: With so much talk about pass rushers, it’s easy to forget that the Cowboys are probably looking for interior defensive linemen as well. Tyrone Crawford showed signs of being an anchor inside after starting his career as a defensive end, and Nick Hayden is an established starter. Josh Brent should be more of a factor now that he’s a year removed from a 10-game suspension for his intoxication manslaughter conviction. But the Cowboys could use more depth.
DON’T RULE IT OUT: The Cowboys have drafted an offensive lineman in the first round three of the past four years after taking just three that high in the franchise’s first 50 years. Jones had never drafted a lineman first. Surely they won’t do it again, right? That’s probably what everyone was thinking last year, when Martin became one of the best picks of the draft. He was the team’s first rookie All-Pro since Calvin Hill in 1969.
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