- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – The keeper of all things salary cap when it comes to the Cowboys, executive vice president Stephen Jones understands the importance of the team hitting on draft picks.
The NFL docked the Cowboys $10 million of cap space the last two years and the team added to the cap figures of veterans like Miles Austin, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff with restructured deals this offseason. They also signed quarterback Tony Romo to an extension worth $118 million.
With the cap not expected to go up greatly over the next few years, finding a middle class in the draft is a must.
“You can’t continue to go to the well and pay the veteran players the $1 million, the $800,000, the $1.2 million,” Jones said. “We’ve got to do a better job going forward of taking your lumps early, but developing these guys and putting them in your lineup, those $300,000 and $400,000 and $500,000 guys. I think that is the big difference compared to where it was three, four, five years ago when you could get the veteran guys.
"I think obviously, when we start the season, that veteran guy is probably a little more ready to play than the young guy coming out of college. It’s a big jump. But with the cap where it is today, that’s one of the things you’re going to have to focus on is plugging these young guys in regardless of if they’re a third-round pick, a fourth-round pick. We had some injury issues last year that didn’t allow us to do that, but I certainly expect those guys to come along as well as the young guys we’ll pick in the third and fourth and fifth round this year.”