The Dallas Cowboys have a lot of questions on their hands and not too many answers. The team wants to build on their 12-4 season, their first year above .500 since 2009. But where should this talented yet flawed team begin?
Here are Dallas' three biggest offseason needs.
Cornerback Brandon Carr will likely be gone due to ineffectiveness and a heft salary cap hit in 2015. It's also possible that fellow CB Morris Claiborne could follow him out the door this offseason. While neither impressed for a variety of reasons last season, their departures will still leave a big hole in Dallas' secondary.
Free agency does offer some intriguing options such as New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty and San Diego Chargers corner Brandon Flowers. But both will be high priced and the Cowboys still have to figure out a way to keep Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray in town. Dallas would be wise to investigate the cornerback options available to them with their first-round pick. ESPN NFL Draft Insider Todd McShay projects them to select Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson in his Mock Draft 1.0.
"The Dallas defense held up better this season with the help of a dominant running game and ball-control offense, but corner is still a position of need for the Cowboys," McShay wrote. "Former first-round pick Morris Claiborne was benched this season prior to his season-ending injury, and the Cowboys could use an infusion of youth and talent at the position. Johnson doesn't have elite physical traits, but he's fast and fluid enough as an athlete to keep up with most receivers and is physical and aggressive as a press corner despite his lean frame and shorter arms. His instincts and awareness are excellent."
2. Defensive Line
Another area of concern for the Cowboys is the defensive line. While Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence could develop into something in his second year, Dallas could still use some upgrades. Anthony Spencer, George Selvie and Nick Hayden are all free agents who have concerns of their own.
Rod Marinelli is a wizard when it comes to defensive linemen. Whoever the Cowboys add will benefit from his teaching. But with precious little cap space, the Cowboys likely won't engage in the bidding war for top available talents such as Ndamukong Suh.
Fellow ESPN NFL Draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. projects Dallas to select Oklahoma defensive tackle Jordan Phillips with their first round pick.
"The Dallas defensive line held up reasonably well this season with merely OK talent, but a lot of that had to do with how much the efficient offense was able to keep it off the field and fresh," Kiper wrote. "The unit isn't going to simply get better unless it adds more talent. Phillips is still pretty raw, but he's got tremendous upside...Put a kid like this under the tutelage of Rod Marinelli and you could end up with something truly special."
3. Running Back
The Cowboys need to decide how to handle Murray's looming free agency. Do they want to commit big money to the running back? Do they think another rusher can produce comparable numbers behind an offensive line featuring three first-round picks? Either way, the team could use some depth.
Even if they do re-sign Murray, having a capable backup would be good. Murray missed 11 games throughout his first three seasons and suffered a broken bone in his hand this past year. Coming off a season in which he approached 450 total touches, there's no telling how his body will respond. Joseph Randle was solid in limited action behind Murray this year, but it's still unclear what his NFL ceiling is. With guys like Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley potentially slipping into the second round, the Cowboys have options if they choose to pursue a second rusher.