IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offseason hasn't been as hot as the Texas weather, and that has Cowboys fans sweating a bit.
Because owner Jerry Jones loaded up his roster with contract extensions in preparation for the 2011 NFL lockout, the Cowboys knew they couldn't acquire much new talent. They were $13 million over the cap when free agency started, and Jones' mission this summer was to maintain the roster rather than upgrade it.
As a result, the Cowboys didn't get Nnamdi Asomugha at cornerback. They didn't get Michael Huff at safety. They couldn't spend for a replacement for receiver Roy Williams, whose $9 million-a-year contract was dumped.
Overall, Jones spent $6 million in free agency, signing safety Abram Elam to a one-year, $2.5 million contract and getting defensive end Kenyon Coleman on a two-year, $3.5 million deal. Jones invested more than $77 million on contracts to keep offensive tackle Doug Free, defensive ends Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher, guard Kyle Kosier and safety Gerald Sensabaugh.
For Cowboys fans who are hot that the team didn't upgrade, my suggestion is to chill. The team is good enough to win 10 games given a schedule that includes four beatable NFC West teams and only two playoff teams outside the division (the New England Patriots and New York Jets). As long as Dallas does well in the NFC East, double-digit wins are definitely possible.
Here are my five observations from Cowboys camp:
1. The youth movement along the offensive line is encouraging. While there might not be one addition that makes them younger and better, I like the commitment. First-round pick Tyron Smith is a tall, athletic right tackle who looks fine in his pass-blocking but needs to lower his pads and use more power against the run. That's why it made sense to move veteran Kyle Kosier from left guard to right guard to serve as an on-field coach next to Smith. The Cowboys scrimmaged the Chargers on Thursday, so Smith was able to work against physical, athletic defensive ends who can challenge him. His progress will be more dependent on his fundamentals than his skills. He's big enough and strong enough to run block and pass block, and he should be fine. What impressed me most was the raw potential of some of the other young interior linemen. Rookie guard David Arkin, a fourth-round pick, has good athleticism, but he's not yet there at the point of attack. Phil Costa, an undrafted center-guard from 2010, did impress me with how well he won battles at the line of scrimmage with his strength. He'll be good in the running game. Seventh-round pick Bill Nagy also looks encouraging. While none of these three young players would normally be considered a starter, one might have to be. Starting left guard Montrae Holland is battling an unspecified injury, which will leave the door open for one young player to be on call. What I like about the whole young group is that they have the type of athletic ability to move well in a zone blocking scheme.
2. The Cowboys aren't concerned about their depth at wide receiver, but they should be. There is no way Dallas should look back with regret at the release of Williams, but the Cowboys may rue the day last year when they traded Patrick Crayton to the San Diego Chargers. Crayton was on the field in Thursday's scrimmage and would easily be the third receiver on the Cowboys this year. For the moment, Kevin Ogletree has that job behind starters Dez Bryant and Miles Austin. After that, 2011 undrafted rookie Raymond Radway has come in and looked a little better than sixth-round pick Dwayne Harris and some of the other receivers on the roster. It's not yet to the point where Jones needs to be looking at the waiver wire for No. 3 wideouts, but he needs to keep an open eye for reasonably priced options. If not, head coach Jason Garrett might have to use more two-tight end sets and make sure TE Martellus Bennett finally lives up to his potential. Bennett is more talented than any Cowboys receiver other than Bryant and Austin, and 2011 is a make-or-break year for him. Going two tight ends isn't a big deal for the Cowboys, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cowboys used three-receiver sets 28.3 plays per game and two-tight end sets 25.8 plays per game last year. The good news is that QB Tony Romo looks great. Romo is throwing with ease and confidence, and he will find a way to keep the passing game in the upper echelon.
3. Injuries are a concern at cornerback. Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins went to the Pro Bowl in 2009, and while they can chalk up a bad 2010 season to an off year, injuries are preventing them from fixing the problem. Newman is out until the opener with a groin injury. Jenkins is also nicked up, so the Cowboys are going through camp and the preseason with Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball as the starters and young players filling the void behind them. Newman and Jenkins were both in the bottom 14 in the NFL in terms of completion percentage allowed, each surrendering completions on more than 60 percent of the passes thrown against them. An aggressive blitzing scheme by new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will help the corners, but Jenkins and Newman need to be on the field to get their timing down. The schedule will help out the Cowboys, though. They play QBs Mark Sanchez of the Jets, Alex Smith of the 49ers and John Beck of the Redskins in the first three weeks, so they do have time to settle into a coverage pattern.
4. Elam appears to be the best addition to the team. He, like defensive end Kenyon Coleman, played for Ryan in Cleveland last season. Elam and Sensabaugh each signed one-year, $2.5 million contracts to be starters at safety. Elam grabbed a couple of interceptions in practice against Cowboys quarterbacks recently, and it was one of the few times in camp a safety got a pick. "We like him a lot," Garrett said of Elam. "He's a smart player. He knows the system. He's great with communication and his instincts." Safety play has been a problem in recent years for the Cowboys. This move might work.
5. The Cowboys may have gotten lucky along the defensive line. They didn't want to pay defensive end Stephen Bowen a $5.5 million salary, so they let him go to the Washington Redskins' 3-4 system. For a little less than what Bowen made in annual salary, the Cowboys were able to re-sign Marcus Spears and Jason Hatcher. Drafted as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Spears has made the conversion into a decent 3-4 end. Cowboys ownership figured Hatcher might leave in free agency, but no team on the market grabbed him and Dallas was able to keep him for about $1.8 million per year. Spears, Coleman and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff are expected to be the starters, but Hatcher has had a great camp and figures to be the third end. His play could knock Igor Olshansky out of a job, which could save the Cowboys $4.3 million of cap room.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter