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Cowboys roll dice on former first-rounders

7/24/2014

OXNARD, Calif. – The Dallas Cowboys acquired three additional first-round picks this offseason, giving up a grand total of a conditional sixth-rounder to do it.

Of course, those first-round picks were all used years ago and arrived at Valley Ranch with some warts.

There are reasons that the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft, eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft and 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft were willing to sign deals with the Cowboys that featured six-figure salaries and little or no guaranteed money. The careers of defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, linebacker Rolando McClain and quarterback Brandon Weeden have not progressed as projected when they were coming out of college.

"These are low-risk decisions that we’ve made," coach Jason Garrett said. "They have talent. We evaluated them coming out of school. We liked them. We evaluated them in the NFL. We liked them. We wanted to give them a chance. As long as the price is right, these are good decisions to make as an organization to give guys a chance.

"Are they talented guys? Yes. Are they the right kind of people? We think they are from the reports that we have. So you give them a chance. You try to put them in a structure where they can thrive and see how they can do. If it doesn’t work out for them for whatever reason, you really haven’t lost that much."

They come to the Cowboys as reclamation projects for various reasons. Okoye, who had a career-high 5.5 sacks his rookie season, will begin training camp on the non-football injury list as he continues to recover from a personal medical issue that caused him to miss the 2013 season. McClain has a chance to compete for the starting middle linebacker job if he decides to stick with football and stay on the straight and narrow after retiring twice and being arrested three times over the last few years. The Cowboys are counting on Weeden to be Tony Romo's backup after a brief, disappointing tenure as the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback.

The Cowboys see each of the former first-round picks as potential bargain signings, pouncing on the chance to add players who had the prized “blue” grade on their draft board at a low price.

“It’s just that those guys that were drafted in the first round,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. “If you evaluate where they are at this particular time, you see opportunity in a player that has played at a Pro Bowl level, if he’s done it, or if he’s had an evaluation that would merit that kind of substance and I would call a first-round draft pick substance. You know there can be many reasons why they are in some cases not only on a team but one of the real impact players on the team. And if you took those reasons or the reasons that another team may have used and you make that decision for you, then you eliminate possibility given difference circumstances another time, a few more years down the road, a little more appreciation.

“You stand on the outside of the NFL and look in and let a little time goes by, you might appreciate the opportunity even more. That’s not uncommon.”