Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Monday, March 19, 2012
The Cowboys should still draft defense

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

The Dallas Cowboys have signed seven free agents so far. And because only two of them have been offensive linemen and neither is an offensive lineman of whom Cowboys fans had previously heard anything good, there is a sense that they're setting up to draft Stanford guard David DeCastro with the 14th pick in next month's draft. And sure, they could be. DeCastro's No. 15 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s Big Board Insider, so it's not as though it'd be a bad-value pick. I generally frown on the idea of taking a guard in the first round, but people think DeCastro's a special player for whom it's worth making an exception, and he may well be a fine pick for the Cowboys. Tim MacMahon and Bryan Broaddus have more on DeCastro in today's edition of ESPNDallas.com's draft preview series.

I'd just be careful assuming that's what's going to happen. The Cowboys entered this offseason with a ton of needs on defense. And while they have signed cornerback Brandon Carr, safety Brodney Pool and linebacker Dan Connor and franchised linebacker Anthony Spencer, they're not done working on the defense and they shouldn't be. The indefatigable Todd Archer reports that they're trying to schedule a visit with Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush, who'd be a special teams guy mainly but also would add depth to the secondary. As we mentioned in the breakfast links, they're also showing interest in linebacker Erik Walden. And these are surely not the only defensive players to whom they're still talking. The Cowboys needed to add depth and quality on defense, and as well as they've done so far in free agency, they still do. This was a defense that fell completely apart last year after the team had seemed to take control of the division race in late November. They simply can't do enough to fix it.

So while, yes, the first-round pick could be DeCastro, I still think the Cowboys would be wiser to keep the focus on defense. I don't think they could go wrong by picking another cornerback, a safety or, if possible, a pass-rushing outside linebacker at that No. 14 spot. And contrary to what some people have been asking me on Twitter, I think that what they've done so far in free agency indicates that they very well might go defense in the draft. They drafted three offensive linemen last year and just signed two more last week. I think they can find a couple of starting guards and a starting center from the group they have, and that a defensive player remains the way to go for the Cowboys in the first round.