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Thursday, January 26, 2012
Updated: January 27, 3:09 PM ET
Jerry Jones is all for change

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he believes in his team's core group. He should. But many have misunderstood Jones, thinking he doesn't believe the Cowboys need change.

Jones thinks change is needed. He cited potential new faces in the secondary and didn't offer an endorsement of veteran cornerback Terence Newman.

The Cowboys will also re-evaluate how they grade their interior offensive linemen. It seemed the Cowboys were fooled into thinking some of their younger linemen were ready to take on the first teams of the New York Jets, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, etc.

They weren't, and now Jones and the rest of the front office are seeking better talent along the offensive line.

You can't get upset with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten, Doug Free, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick and Tyron Smith -- they formed a good core group.

Improvements are needed, especially in the back end of the secondary, and another pass-rusher is needed to help Ware and Ratliff.

The Cowboys understand this and most likely will make some changes in 2012. The issue is just how the Cowboys will handle these potential changes.

Now, to the first offseason mailbag:

Q: Do you think that Jerry Jones will ever take a back seat and hire a GM to run the team? -- Chris (Salina, Kan.)

A:
Never. Jones' thought is, why use a middleman between the coach and the owner when you have the owner also doing the job of GM? It's silly to think Jones will hire somebody to help in the evaluation process of college and pro talent. He relies on his scouts and front-office personnel to help make decisions and that's the way it's always going to be.

Q: Calvin, it was my understanding that a rookie gets paid on potential and a veteran gets paid on his body of work. Having said that, why was Orlando Scandrick given a contract extension? -- Keith Washington (Pensacola, Fla.)

Victor Cruz
It wasn't the worst thing to reward cornerback Orlando Scandrick's potential, but he must do a better job of attacking the ball.
A:
The Cowboys did extend Scandrick based on his potential and the opportunities the 2012 season will present to him. Scandrick has said he expects to start in 2012 and while he got significant snaps in 2011, he was always considered the slot corner. Scandrick was the Cowboys' best corner in 2010, but he dropped off last year. He battled an ankle injury in the early stages of the season and it might have sapped his ability to drive on receivers. He needs to play better next season, especially when it comes to attacking the ball. Giving him a new contract isn't the end of the world.

Q: I hear a lot of Cowboys fans talk about signing Carl Nicks from the New Orleans Saints. It would be great if we could get him, but is this a real possibility or is this just wishful thinking? -- Matt (Ventura, Calif.)

A:
Jones said the franchise will not shy away from using its cap space, currently at $12.5 million, which could grow based on the restructuring of deals and player cuts. The Cowboys can save as much as $4 million by cutting Terence Newman. Nicks is a possibility but you have to wonder if the Saints value him over wide receiver Marques Colston, who is also a free agent. The Saints need to re-sign quarterback Drew Brees; after that, things will get interesting. I'm not opposed to signing Nicks, but the Cowboys have to develop young talent along the offensive line, too.

Q: If still on the board, who do the Cowboys pick: the CB from Alabama or the OLB from Alabama? Plus, do you see Terence Newman moved to free safety? -- Toney Hunt (New York)

A:
Dre Kirkpatrick should be off the Cowboys' draft board by the 14th pick. But his recent arrest on a marijuana possession charge could push him to the teens or maybe out of the first round. I doubt if the Cowboys draft him because of this issue. Jason Garrett isn't trying to draft troubled players anymore. As for Courtney Upshaw, he has plenty of upside and would fit in nicely with Rob Ryan's scheme as the other rush end. Newman won't get moved to free safety; he doesn't have the range to play the spot. He's still fast, yet he didn't play with much confidence last season. It's time to move on.

Q: Based on the salary cap space that the Cowboys have, do you think it's wiser to make improvement on the defense primarily through free agency or the draft? -- Thomas (Temple Hills, Md.)

A:
The Cowboys can do anything they want with their salary cap space, it just depends where their needs are. Is there better talent in the draft to help the defense? I think there is. On offense, there is nothing wrong with taking a shot at Nicks in free agency. The biggest needs for this team are secondary, pass-rusher and offensive line. I also think drafting a quarterback is important here, though from what I saw at the Senior Bowl, those kids need more work.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.