Reviewing the Cowboys' drafts: 2013

April, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas – We conclude the reviewing the Dallas Cowboys' last five drafts today with the Class of 2013.

If you want our thoughts on the 2009-12 drafts, click here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011 and here for 2012.

First-round pick: Travis Frederick (No. 31 overall)

Number of picks: 7

Frederick
How they did: The Cowboys moved down from No. 18 to No. 31 in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers despite having their fifth rated player on their draft board available in Sharrif Floyd. It was a strange move at the time, especially with many believing Frederick was a third- or fourth-round pick. The Cowboys picked up the 49ers' third-round selection and took wide receiver Terrance Williams.

The formula might have been flawed but the results were good because Frederick played like a veteran from his first day and Williams made big plays and will be counted as a starter in 2014. They saw contributions from Gavin Escobar, J.J. Wilcox, Joseph Randle and DeVonte Holloman to varying levels. Escobar, Wilcox and Holloman could all see starting-type roles in 2014.

Pivotal pick: Escobar (No. 47 overall). The Cowboys were set to renew their commitment to a two-tight end personnel group and Escobar was supposed to pair up with Jason Witten. The Cowboys knew he would need help as a blocker, but counted on his receiving skills to set him apart. He was not given a ton of playing time with James Hanna, a sixth-rounder in 2012, taking the bulk of the No. 2 tight end snaps. Escobar finished with nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns and showed flashes of athleticism, but questions remain just as they did on other former second-round picks the Cowboys used on tight ends in Anthony Fasano (2006) and Martellus Bennett (2008).

Best pick: The Cowboys were nearly wiped out of ready-made linemen when they got to Frederick. They had eyes on Justin Pugh and Kyle Long, but they went at Nos. 19 and 20 after they made the trade. Frederick eased any fears with a terrific rookie season. He rarely made mental mistakes and was strong at the point of attack throughout. The Cowboys worked him some in training camp at guard, but center was his best position. He is smart and can communicate well. He has the look of a 10-year starter at the position.

Worst pick: B.W. Webb (No. 114 overall). He might have the physical tools but the jump from William & Mary to the NFL was too big for him last year. When the Cowboys lost Morris Claiborne to hamstring injuries, Webb was asked to fill in on the slot and struggled. He was given one-on-one instruction in practice and never got comfortable. He eventually lost his playing time to Sterling Moore and needs to improve greatly in 2014.

Source: Dallas picks up Tyron Smith option

April, 17, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have exercised the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith’s contract, according to a source, keeping the 2011 first-round pick with the team at least through 2015.

Smith
The option will pay Smith more than $10 million and is presently guaranteed for injury, but it does not preclude the Cowboys and Smith working out a multi-year deal before it is fully guaranteed by the first day of the league year in 2015.

The Cowboys took Smith with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft, and he has missed just one game in three seasons. He played right tackle as a rookie before moving to left tackle in his second year. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season.

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have to pay Smith the transition tag money due to offensive linemen in 2014 ($10.039 million) because he was a top-10 pick. The Cowboys had to pick up the option by May 3 or Smith would have become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Smith, who does not turn 24 until December, is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the game. The Cowboys want to sign Smith to a long-term deal and have made him a priority as well as wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose contract expires after the 2014 season.

Smith signed a four-year, $12.496 million deal in 2011 that was fully guaranteed and included a $7.588 million signing bonus.

Aikman concerned about Romo's back

April, 17, 2014
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Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman knows something about back surgeries. He had one at 26 and recovered in time to start the 1993 season.

Romo
His experience gives him cause for concern over current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who is recovering from surgery similar to Aikman's.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready,” Aikman told the Cowboys' website during a charity event Wednesday at AT&T Stadium. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned."

Aikman led the Dallas Cowboys to a Super Bowl during that '93 season, in which he completed a career-high 69.1 percent of his passes for 3,100 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He did miss two games, not because of his back but because of a leg injury.

Team officials believe Romo will be ready to start training camp. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Romo is ahead of schedule in terms of his rehab.

Romo had a cyst removed from his back last spring that delayed his work in the offseason program, and he came into training camp overweight. He was able to get his weight back down.

In December, he underwent a discectomy to repair a herniated disc that cost him the final game of the 2013 season. Romo told ESPN last month that his recovery is going fine but hasn't given much details about his recovery otherwise.

Still, concerns remain about Romo's return.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is," Aikman said. "This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April.”

Reviewing Cowboys' free agency: 2012

April, 17, 2014
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With free agency entering the final stages, we'll review the Cowboys' past five free-agency classes.

We'll continue with 2012:

Players signed: Mackenzy Bernadeau, Brandon Carr, Dan Connor, Nate Livings, Kyle Orton and Lawrence Vickers.

Starts earned: 62

Analysis: The Cowboys needed to upgrade the talent level along the offensive line and secondary. Bernadeau and Livings were signed to become starters and each started every game. Carr signed a big money deal -- five years, $50.1 million -- to become a starter alongside Morris Claiborne. Orton was the quality backup needed for Tony Romo at quarterback and Vickers and Connor were quality veterans who started a combined 14 games. Carr proved to be versatile as he played some free safety at times. When the season ended, Carr had a team-leading three interceptions and 11 pass breakups. He finished the last four weeks of the season with five pass breakups. The Cowboys’ run game mustered just 3.6 yards per carry with a variety of running backs due to injuries. Vickers was a solid pickup for the Cowboys, and when healthy, DeMarco Murray averaged 4.1 yards per carry and did score four rushing touchdowns. There were some questions about the health of Bernadeau because he spent the offseason recovering from health issues before the start of the season. He almost lost his starting gig to Derrick Dockery, but as the season progressed Bernadeau got better.

Grade: B

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Cowboys 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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IRVING, Texas -- So far Mel Kiper Jr. has followed the Dallas Cowboys' draft needs in his mock drafts.

In his first two mocks, he offered up Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. In his third, he went with Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. In his Grade A mock, he went with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

In Kiper's Mock draft 4.0 , he has gone away from the defensive side of the ball.


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Stanford's Mauro closer to Cowboys dream

April, 17, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Josh Mauro was like a lot of kids growing up in the area. He was a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. He even attended the final game at Texas Stadium, a loss to the Baltimore Ravens in 2008. He hoped one day he would wear the star on his helmet.

[+] EnlargeJosh Mauro
George Frey/Getty ImagesTexas native Josh Mauro had a breakout season for the Stanford Cardinal in 2013.
Today Mauro, who played defensive line at Stanford after leaving Hurst L.D. Bell, is at Valley Ranch with other Dallas Day hopefuls -- working out for the team while his immediate family watches. Mauro will be joined by other locals like TCU safety Elisha Olabode, Missouri quarterback James Franklin (Corinth), Abilene Christian receiver Taylor Gabriel (Mesquite), Miami defensive back Kacy Rodgers (Southlake Carroll) -- whose dad was the Cowboys defensive line coach from 2003-07 -- and North Texas running back Zach Orr (DeSoto).

"It's kind of like a dream come true," Mauro said. "Playing Pee Wee football and high school, you see the Cowboys and it's like a dream to think you could play for them. This isn't a sign-up for the Cowboys, but to even have the opportunity to work out for them is something special."

Mauro, 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, played defensive end, defensive tackle and even some nose tackle for Stanford. He had 51 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, six quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and an interception for one of the best defenses in college football in 2013.

He knows the Cowboys have defensive line needs, too. He knows DeMarcus Ware is now with the Denver Broncos, Jason Hatcher is with the Washington Redskins and Anthony Spencer remains unsigned. He is aware they signed Henry Melton.

"You're talking two, possibly three starters up front in that defense that aren't there anymore," Mauro said.

Mauro met with Cowboys assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett and other coaches at the NFL scouting combine in February. He played in the East-West Shrine Game and worked out in California, with former Stanford players like Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener and other current NFL players.

"It's a great work environment, just getting to be with guys that are like minded and in the NFL," Mauro said. "I've been able to learn a lot from them."

ESPN Insiders have him as the 21st ranked defensive end, but his versatility puts him on the radar of 4-3 and 3-4 teams. Having played in a multiple defenses used at Stanford also helps. When he arrived at Stanford, Vic Fangio was his coordinator. Fangio now runs the San Francisco 49ers defense. Josh Tarver took over for Fangio, and he now runs the Oakland Raiders defense. Derek Mason took over for Tarver and he is now the head coach at Vanderbilt.

"Say a team runs a 3-4, the guys they'll have aren't just the typical big, block squares just two-gapping," Mauro said. "It's a passing league. You've got to be able to play different personnel. Look at a team like New England. They might have one down lineman and standing up the other 10 guys. The game is so different. It's not the traditional tight end, two backs, two wide receivers. It could be three, four, five wide receivers. The name of the game is to get to the quarterback. I've been able to do that at Stanford from a lot of different positions. Nowadays getting to the quarterback whether it be from the nine technique or nose guard, you've got to be able to create mismatches for people in different positions."

He worked out for the Atlanta Falcons and will work out for the New York Giants next week, followed by visits with the 49ers and Raiders.

"I still remember we wrote our goal letters at every training period at Stanford," Mauro said. "My first goal was to eventually become a starter at Stanford, an All-American defensive end and be a future first-round pick. Now coming out of high school that was a very, very ambitious goal and I wasn't heavily recruited. I had a few offers, but I always set the bar high so even if I fall short of my expectations I'd still end up in a good place. I always believed in it. Three years in the program I hadn't played very much. The fourth year I came in off the bench and was the energy guy … . My fifth year I ended up starting 11 games and was productive and helped one of the best defenses in the nation. Everything is kind of surreal. You couldn't plan it out. You just always have to believe in yourself if no one is believing in you."

Reviewing the Cowboys’ drafts: 2012

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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IRVING, Texas -- Day 4 of reviewing the Dallas Cowboys' past five drafts continues today with the Class of 2012.

If you want our thoughts on the 2009-11 drafts, click here for 2009, here for 2010 and here for 2011.

First-round pick: Morris Claiborne (No. 6 overall)

Claiborne
Number of picks: 7

How they did: The Cowboys made a bold move by trading up from No. 14 to No. 6 to take Claiborne, whom they had given the highest grade for a cornerback since Deion Sanders. Two years later, the Cowboys are still waiting for Claiborne to pay off.

In fact, most of the draft class has yet to pay off. Third-round pick Tyrone Crawford (No. 81 overall) did not play last season because of a torn Achiiles. One fourth-round pick, Matt Johnson (No. 135 overall) has yet to play in a game in his two seasons because of injuries. It took the other fourth rounder, Kyle Wilber (No. 113 overall), almost two seasons to find his role. Danny Coale (knee, foot) and Caleb McSurdy (Achilles) never made the team. Sixth-round pick James Hanna was the No. 2 tight end a year ago.

Pivotal pick: It’s hard to say anybody other than Claiborne because of the price the Cowboys paid to get him, giving up their second-round pick. He came in with a surgically-repaired wrist that kept him out of offseason work as a rookie. He suffered through a hamstring injury that kept him out of six games last season. He has two interceptions in two seasons and has not displayed the confidence he played with at LSU. He must turn it around in 2014 or the Cowboys’ decision to move up to get him will haunt the team for a long time.

Hanna
Best pick: There isn’t one yet really. Crawford did not record a sack as a rookie but was solid. The Cowboys are banking on him in a big way to return from the Achilles’ injury. Based on expectations and playing time, Hanna (No. 186 overall) might be the best, but he has just 20 catches for 159 yards. He could see his playing time decrease in a big way if Gavin Escobar gets more work as the club intends.

Worst pick: The Cowboys have kept Johnson around because of his potential, but the patience has to be running thin. He did not play as a rookie because of recurring hamstring injuries, as well as an aching back. He did not play in 2013 because of ankle surgery. He is out of time to make something happen, which he knows. Considering the Cowboys’ need at safety, however, there is still a chance for Johnson to make an impact.
The Cowboys completed three days of their national visits with college prospects on Wednesday.

Some of the confirmed names are as follows: Tackle Zack Martin (Notre Dame), wide receiver Josh Huff (Oregon), defensive ends Scott Crichton (Oregon State) and Will Clarke (West Virginia).

In the past three days, the Cowboys have focused a bulk of their college visits on the defensive line.

Kony Ealy, Demarcus Lawrence, Timmy Jernigan and Aaron Donald are among some of the players who visited the Valley Ranch complex.

In free agency, the Cowboys signed three defensive linemen, headlined by defensive tackle Henry Melton.

The Cowboys lost two players in free agency: DeMarcus Ware, who was released and signed a deal with the Denver Broncos, and Jason Hatcher, who inked a deal with NFC East rival Washington.

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said what the franchise has done in free agency wouldn't preclude the team from drafting a lineman next month. Jones said the team wants to get the best player available regardless of position with the No. 16 overall selection.

Dallas Cowboys worked out Davin Joseph

April, 16, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With the NFL draft at the forefront of their minds, the Dallas Cowboys are not ignoring free agency.

Two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph visited with the club earlier in the week, and wide receiver LaRon Byrd will work out for the team on Thursday, according to sources.

Joseph was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before free agency began, saving the team $6 million in cap space. A first-round pick in 2006 out of Oklahoma, Joseph started 89 games for the Buccaneers and made the Pro Bowl in 2008 and ’11. He missed the 2012 season with a knee injury and struggled last season.

The Cowboys have little depth behind starters Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary. Joseph, 30, could push for a starting spot or serve as a backup at both guard spots. If the Cowboys sign Joseph, then it would seem to end the chances of Brian Waters returning. Waters has not decided whether he wants to play or have surgery on a torn triceps injury that ended his 2013 season.

Byrd, 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, spent last year on injured reserve with the Arizona Cardinals because of a concussion. He was released earlier in the month and worked out recently for the New York Giants.

The Cowboys will host local draft prospects at Valley Ranch on Thursday as part of their Dallas Day workouts. Texas wide receiver Mike Davis (Skyline), SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert and TCU quarterback Casey Pachall are among the players scheduled to work out. Texas outside linebacker/defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat is not among the group despite attending Plano West. Because his family moved to Colorado with his dad, Jim, coaching in Boulder, he is not allowed, per league rules.

Reviewing Cowboys' free agency: 2011

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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With free agency entering the final stages, we'll review the Cowboys' past five free-agency classes.

We'll continue with 2011:

Players signed: Kenyon Coleman

Starts earned: 15

Analysis: When defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wanted a new defensive end, he thought of Coleman, who played for him with the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys were looking for depth along the defensive line when they lost Stephen Bowen in free agency. Coleman signed a three-year contract with the Cowboys to become a stop gap until some younger players emerged as starters. It was an excellent signing for the Cowboys because they picked up a veteran player who could teach Sean Lissemore, Clifton Geathers and Josh Brent about playing the defensive line. While Lissemore and Geathers were ends, Coleman's veteran presence was a welcome to the Cowboys' locker room. In 15 starts, Coleman, a run-stopping end, finished with 44 tackles, 10th on the team. He also had five tackles for loss, fifth on the squad. His best game occurred on Nov. 24 against Miami, where he had four tackles, one quarterback pressure, a tackle for loss and a sack.

Grade: B

Coaching background helps Will McClay

April, 16, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- One element I was not able to work into Tuesday’s feature on Dallas Cowboys assistant director of player personnel Will McClay was his coaching background.

He was a defensive coordinator for five Arena Football League teams, including the Dallas Desperados, and served as the Desperados head coach from 2004-08.

At the NFL scouting combine in February, coach Jason Garrett said McClay’s background as a coach is helpful, but noted a number of the scouts have a coaching background.

The Cowboys have a number of personnel on their scouting staff. Director of Scouting Tom Ciskowski was a college assistant coach from 1979-91 before joining the Cowboys’ scouting department in 1992. National Scout Drew Fabianich was the defensive coordinator at Tennessee from 1993-96 and had a number of coaching stops before moving into scouting.

“The communication in our building is critical and Will’s been a big part of that,” Garrett said. “Coaches, scouting, the executive branch of our organization, we want to make sure everybody’s talking, everybody’s on the same page, and Will’s done a great job with that. I think philosophy’s are all the same, that’s a good thing. It’s given Tom Ciskowski an opportunity to really focus on the college stuff, so he’s obviously a big part of this whole dynamic that we have and has been for a number of years. Bringing players into your organization is a really important piece to having success, and if everyone’s on the same page about what kind of players and what kind of people you want to bring it, it gives you a great chance of doing what you want to do.”

As a pro scout, McClay was a quasi-assistant with the Cowboys, working in the offseason with defensive backs at different times.

“I think it’s a huge benefit not only in evaluating talent, but evaluating what’s behind the talent,” said Terry Gray, a scouting consultant and former assistant coach to McClay. “Who is the guy? What’s important to him? How does he compete? What is his daily work ethic? What is he thinking? What’s his reaction time? Can he process what he sees in a timely fashion to compete in the NFL? Will’s not just been a coach, but being a head coach gives him a deeper perspective on evaluating players and how they play on the field, but what they are built on and who they are and what their core principles are.”
The Dallas Cowboys have three quarterbacks on their roster and expect to keep it that way when the 2014 regular season begins.

However, it doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t look at some quarterbacks.

Team officials are in Athens, Ga., on Wednesday looking at University of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Among the officials in attendance is Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.

Murray
There is no expectation the Cowboys will draft Murray in the later rounds of next month’s draft, but the team is doing its due diligence, much like it did two years ago with Brandon Weeden.

When Weeden was entering the draft from Oklahoma State, Cowboys officials met with him and kept watch from afar. After Weeden was released by the Cleveland Browns this spring, the Cowboys jumped at the chance to sign him because they had done the research necessary to make a move.

With the amount of money invested in starting quarterback Tony Romo and backup Kyle Orton, the team isn't trying to draft a quarterback in the first two rounds. Finding a future replacement for Romo isn't a high priority, but they are looking for a quality young backup. Though Weeden is 30, he has only two years of NFL experience, so that justifies the Cowboys signing him.

Also, the Cowboys are expected to void out the last few years of Orton's contract, making him a free agent after the 2014 season.

Murray is projected as a middle-round draft selection, but ESPN’s Jon Gruden was impressed with him.

Gruden said Murray, who is fully recovered after tearing his ACL in his left knee last November, has deep-ball accuracy, good touch on the ball and will be “the steal for somebody” in the draft. Cowboys' officials aren't in love with Murray's height, 6-1, but they believe he's got a strong enough arm to make the necessary throws in the NFL.

Murray is the all-time leading passer in SEC history and holds the school record with 121 career touchdowns.

The Cowboys haven’t met with any of the top quarterbacks at Valley Ranch during their 30 pre-draft visits. It could be a smoke screen, or the simple fact the team isn’t drafting a quarterback.

Team officials are quite familiar with all the top quarterbacks, and their closer look at Murray might not mean anything now, but could be something for the future.

NFL Nation Buzz: Dallas Cowboys

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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video
Dallas Cowboys reporter Todd Archer talks about the prospects the team will bring in before the draft and how to interpret those visits.

Reviewing the Cowboys’ drafts: 2011

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
9:00
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Day 3 of reviewing the Dallas Cowboys’ past five drafts continues today with the Class of 2011.

If you want our thoughts on the 2009 and 2010 drafts, click here and here.

First-round pick: Tyron Smith (No. 9 overall)

Number of picks: 8

[+] EnlargeTyron Smith
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsOffensive tackle Tyron Smith, who has Hall of Fame aspirations, is off to a great start and is just 23.
How they did: In Jason Garrett’s first full season as head coach they did something Jerry Jones never did before: selected an offensive lineman in the first round. In Tyron Smith, they have one of the best left tackles in football. The third-round pick, DeMarco Murray (No. 71 overall) had his first 1,000-yard season in 2013 and was added to the Pro Bowl.

Landing wide receiver Dwayne Harris (No. 176 overall) in the sixth round is also something of a coup. He needed time to develop, but he is a valuable return man, special teamer and is a quality receiver with some big-play ability. Bill Nagy (No. 252 overall) started as a rookie at guard, but that might have said more about the state of the line in 2010 than his ability.

Pivotal pick: Like Sean Lee in 2010, the Cowboys took an injured linebacker in Bruce Carter (No. 40 overall) with the idea of being patient for a payoff in 2012 and beyond. Carter started the year on PUP and played mostly on special teams as a rookie, but appeared to blossom in 11 games in 2012 before an elbow injury ended his season. He has the athletic ability to be one of the better weakside linebackers in a 4-3, but he had a poor showing in 2013. If he can find the form the Cowboys thought he had, then this draft goes from good to great.

Best pick: The Cowboys passed on a chance to pick up first- and second-round picks from the Jacksonville Jaguars to select Smith. He played right tackle as a rookie and moved to left tackle in 2012. It took some time, but the payoff came in 2013. When Smith arrived he said his goal was to make the Hall of Fame. That is a lofty standard, but if he can string together more seasons like last year, then he could end up in Canton, Ohio, one day. The best part is that Smith does not turn 24 until December.

Worst pick: The Cowboys thought they were getting a small-school gem in offensive lineman David Arkin when they took him in the fourth round (No. 119 overall) out of Missouri State. He was a starter on the first day of training camp in part because of the end of the lockout, but he never made a dent before he was cut last season. He was one of the harder workers and was willing to play center as well, but he never showed the strength and power needed to play on the interior.

Quick fix for the Cowboys draft

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
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The good people at Pro Football Focus have quick fixes for five NFL teams.

The Dallas Cowboys, with the No. 16 pick in the draft, are in need of several upgrades on defense. PFF believes the Cowboys should find a pass-rusher at defensive end.

"Edge rushers for the Cowboys ranked 22nd in pass-rush productivity last year, and that was with DeMarcus Ware on the team," writes Neil Hornsby for PFF. "There is no question this group will need major bolstering."

For the complete report, check it out here Insider.

You have to be an ESPN Insider to read the entire article.

Over the past two days, the Cowboys have conducted pre-draft interviews with several defensive linemen: Aaron Donald, Demarcus Lawrence, Kony Ealy and Timmy Jernigan.

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