The Cowboys have been .500 in the last two seasons. In that span, they have outscored by a grand total of two points. In short, they have been average — and frustratingly so, given that their very best play on both sides of the ball is anything but .500-caliber.
As the Cowboys try to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009, here are five positions that could use reinforcement via the 2013 draft:
Defensive line: On the surface, this position doesn’t rate as an overwhelming need. However, ends DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer and tackles Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher will be 30 or older by next offseason. Also, Spencer is on a one-year deal after signing the franchise tender, and Hatcher’s contract is up after 2013. Adding more youth on the edges and in the middle would make sense, with a promising rusher who could learn from Ware and Spencer an especially logical choice.
Offensive line: While the Cowboys have invested in their offensive line in recent years, it’s a group that could use another impact performer. The interior of the line (center and guard) and right tackle are the needs here. Left tackle is not, which is a positive. The right tackle situation is particularly interesting. Will the Cowboys give Doug Free another shot with the hope he recaptures his best form?
One last note: league positional value gives the Dallas defensive line the edge over the offensive line for purposes of this draft needs discussion. Improving the OL spots in question for Dallas can be usually be done more cheaply and easily, in theory, than finding difference-making defensive linemen.
Safety: Among the quarterbacks the Cowboys could face in the 2013 regular season: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III, Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, Philip Rivers. In Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys have a corner tandem well-suited to deal with such a tough prospective slate. However, the Cowboys have some uncertainty at safety, with Barry Church coming back from an Achilles injury, Matt Johnson hampered by hamstring issues in 2012 and veteran pickup Will Allen likely just a short-term solution.
Running back: Starting back DeMarco Murray has been productive in two NFL seasons, but he has missed time with injuries in both campaigns, and the Cowboys’ lack of quality depth behind him was a material issue in 2012. The Cowboys need a back capable of reducing the wear-and-tear on Murray, one who can take over as the featured runner as needed.
Wide receiver: The depth behind starters Dez Bryant and Miles Austin needs to be bolstered. Austin, who is due $24 million in compensation from 2014 through 2016 per Rotoworld figures, is approaching 30. Bryant has two years left on his deal and is in line for a huge raise if he plays like he did at the end of 2012.
The Cowboys have six draft picks, one in Rounds One through Six. Ideally, this class helps now and in the future. The Cowboys have some immediate depth issues to address — and some of their core players are getting up in age.