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Friday, January 27, 2012
A suggested shopping list for Jerry Jones

By Tim MacMahon

If you read Jerry Jones’ quotes from this week at the Senior Bowl, it’d be reasonable to conclude that he’s confused about just how much of an overhaul the Cowboys’ roster needs.

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The man manages to come across as delusional and realistic on the same subject.

Delusional: “Personnel is not an issue in my mind overall relative to us having a good team next year.”

Realistic: “We’ve got a lot of work to do with our personnel.”

Clearly, Jerry can use all the guidance he can get, and we’re always happy to help. So here’s a list of the Cowboys’ top positional priorities entering the offseason.

1. Cornerback: All indications are that the Cowboys will make the common-sense decision to cut Terence Newman. Jerry made a point to praise Orlando Scandrick, so it’s up to the coaches to make sure the general manager understands that Scandrick did nothing to indicate he’s ready for a starting job after signing a five-year, $27 million contract extension. At the least, the Cowboys need to get somebody to compete with Scandrick for that job during training camp. Ideally, the Cowboys acquire a starter and leave Scandrick in the nickel role. And the Cowboys need more than one new corner, as depth is a significant concern.

2. Interior offensive line: These were the offense’s weakest links. The Cowboys have to upgrade at least two of these three spots. The Cowboys would be wise to use a big chunk of their cap space – $12.6 million now and sure to grow – to sign Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks in free agency. Jones and coach Jason Garrett have also essentially admitted that it was a mistake to consider Phil Costa a starting center.

3. Outside linebacker: Average Anthony Spencer is a free agent and the Cowboys can’t afford to lock up another mediocre player to a lucrative long-term contract. Can they get somebody who is capable of providing consistent pressure opposite DeMarcus Ware?

4. Safety: For better or worse, Gerald Sensabaugh will return after signing a five-year, $22.5 million extension. The Cowboys have to hope that his struggles down the stretch were due in large part to the painful foot injury Sensabaugh played through. They need to find a playmaker to pair with him. Abram Elam had no interceptions or passes defensed last season.

5. Defensive line: The Cowboys need more disruptors up front. There is always offseason talk about bumping Jay Ratliff from nose tackle to defensive end. That could determine whether the Cowboys which defensive line position the Cowboys most need to address. But the Cowboys can’t just settle for space-eaters. Players like San Francisco’s Justin Smith and Houston’s J.J. Watt have shown the value of having playmakers up front in a 3-4 scheme.

6. Inside linebacker: Bruce Carter, the second-round pick who basically redshirted as a rookie, needs to be able to step into Bradie James’ spot as a starter next to Sean Lee. But the Cowboys still need to find another inside linebacker capable of playing immediately and contributing on special teams. All due respect to Keith Brooking, who wants to keep playing, but he can’t be counted on to cover punts and kicks at his age.

7. Quarterback: No, the Cowboys shouldn’t be thinking about replacing Tony Romo. But they need to find him a backup. Stephen McGee hasn’t shown enough to be trusted in that role, and Garrett prefers to go the seasoned veteran route anyway.

8. Tight end: Martellus Bennett’s potential will become another team’s problem. John Phillips should be able to step into the No. 2 role, but the Cowboys need to address the depth at this position.