IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys didn’t draft a defensive lineman last year even though they were switching to a scheme that required one more.
Executive vice president Stephen Jones kept calling it a “position of strength,” a claim the son of owner and general manager Jerry Jones can’t make now that the Dallas has released franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware. And even though the Cowboys added several free agents to their front four, the search is on for their next elite pass rusher.
Dallas has plenty of other needs after a third straight 8-8 season and a fourth consecutive year without the playoffs. The Cowboys have the 16th pick Thursday night.
“I think where you get in trouble is, if you’re drafting 16 ... and your 24th-ranked player is a defensive lineman, and you pass over eight players to get to that defensive lineman, I think you make a mistake,” NFL.com draft analyst and former Dallas player personnel director Gil Brandt said in an interview for the team’s website. “I just think you have to take the best player available and build your team from that.”
The biggest problem with the Cowboys saying they thought they were set up front a year ago was them knowing nose tackle Jay Ratliff was injured and disgruntled, refusing to use the team’s medical staff in his rehabilitation.
Now Ratliff is in Chicago after his midseason release without playing for Dallas last year, Ware is in Denver as a cost-saving move, and 2013 sacks leader Jason Hatcher has moved on to Washington.
The Cowboys did re-sign Anthony Spencer on a scaled-back one-year deal after keeping him under the franchise tag for two straight seasons. He only played one game last year because of a left knee injury.
Dallas also added defensive tackle Henry Melton, a starter in Chicago before injuring a knee last year, and journeymen Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain.