The Dallas Cowboys are in similar straits as so many of the NFL teams in that they have more than 15 Free Agents and an additional number of players that should be upgraded, but with only 7 rounds to the NFL draft will be hard pressed to improve and replenish their rosters to playoff contention. And this year, Dallas only has 6 draft picks so how will it be possible to improve upon last year, much less just remain where they were.

The math doesn't add up, 6 picks to replace at least 10 and possibly more. Free Agency is not that great an option because of salary cap issues. Another drawback is that signing players to big contracts doesn't always work out; witness Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dallas's own Jay Ratliff and Doug Free.

The Cowboys have 17 Free Agents that they either have to re-sign or let go in addition to a number of returning roster players who should be replaced. Of the Cowboys 17 Free Agents, 13 are expendable, 1 is talented but has issues, 2 are average and one, DE Anthony Spencer, is a talented player worth re-signing, but maybe with motivational clauses rather than guaranteed money. Let's face it, the Cowboys are not a good team personnel wise. They have two Pro Bowlers in DE DeMarcus Ware, a starter, and TE Jason Witten, a backup. The Boys do not annouce Pro Bowl alternates, but WR Dez Bryant had a good year, LOT Tyron Smith can play, QB Tony Romo is good enough, the LBers are decent and the aforesaid Anthony Spencer, DE, is a good player.

There are some others worth mentioning, however.  This Old Timer was told years ago that in order to evaluate the personnel of a team, check out the number of Pro Bowlers that they have and how many emerging Pro Bowlers they might have and then check the rest of the roster for B (good) players and C (average) players. If there are not a lot of Pro Bowlers or Pro Bowler types and B players and are loaded with a lot of C and C- players, then you have a rebuilding job to do. To get a better picture of this, Seattle had 5 Pro Bowlers, 2 starters, 3 backups and 8 alternates, Houston had 8, the Patriots 7 with 4 starters, Baltimore had 7 with 6 starters and that doesn't include Joe Flacco; K. C. had 5 and 1 alternate and the 49ers had 9 with 7 starters and also had 8 alternates.

Now this method is not as accurate a method as years ago because prior to 1995, the coaches and players selected the Pro Bowlers and since then the coaches, players and fans get to vote with each group having a one third group vote. However, it is still some indication of team strength.

The AP All-Pro 1st and 2nd Teams are considered a better barometer but they only show DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten and as second teamers. So how do the Cowboys bridge this gap while Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware still have something left in the tank and with only 6 draft choices to accomplish this.

Last year they traded up in the first round to draft CB Morris Claiborne by exchanging No. 1's going from 15 to 6 and then including their 2nd rounder which was pick 45. Now Claiborne has shown to be talented and could turn out to be a top pick but giving up pick 45 was costly as Seattle selected LBer Bobby Wagner at 47 and Green Bay selected CB Casey Heyward at 62. So if Dallas had stayed at 15 they could have selected DT Michael Brockers at 15 and then either Wagner or Heyward at 45. Both turned out to be top players.

So herewith is my BLUEPRINT for the Cowboys and that is: to trade back as many times as possible to accumulate extra draft choices and build through the draft.

Because of the salary cap it is better to build with younger and less expensive players. This is especially true this year as the draft is considered to be a middle draft, that is the strength of the draft is in the middle rounds rather than having 10 or so elite players at the top and then average players after that elite group. Another way of stating it is that the difference in grades between players high in the first round are not that much different than players in rounds 2 and 3 and into Round 4. Mike Mayock of NFL Network has stated that the 25th pick may be as good as the 5th pick, and he could have included second and third rounders.

With DT Jay Ratliff and OT Doug Free, Dallas has had the experience of signing players to big contracts and than seeing their performance decline and then being in the position of having to replace them. Draft day, April 25, 2013 and Dallas with pick No.18 in the first round trades it back to Minnesota at 25 which according to the Value Chart (VC) would mean Dallas would also get Minnesota's 3rd round pick (83) and 7th (214).

Then when Dallas is at 25, it trades it back again to 31 with San Francisco, which is targeting specific players as their roster is already loaded and they have extra draft choices to boot. The Value Chart (VC) reveals that SF would also give up its 3rd round choice (93) which doesn't hurt them as they have an earlier 3rd rounder at (74), but Dallas would be 8 points short so would have to give up the 7 (214) that was obtained from Minnesota, still leaving SF 2.2 points short but they waive it as they have so many picks and the differential is insubstantial.

So now at 31 and with teams such as Jacksonville, Arizona, the Jets and Buffalo, which didn't select QBs in the first round and feeling pressured to draft a young QB; and wanting to jump ahead of the teams in front of them, or Jacksonville, fearing a jump from behind, all get on the tellie. Now Buffalo did sign Kevin Kolb; and Arizona, which did bring in Carson Palmer, still wants to trade up, gets the deal and exchanges its 2nd round pick (38) and adds in their 4th rounder (103) for the (31) that Dallas holds, which according to the VC indicates that Dallas should in return throw in a early Seventh but it doesn't have any Seventh rounders so adds in a 6 for 2014.

What Dallas is really hoping for here is a bidding war from teams picking behind Jacksonville at (34) and who want to trade up to (31) and give up more than the Value Chart suggests, but we didn't have that much success, other than continuing our insane desire to acquire extra picks. 

We trade our original No. 2 (47) back to Miami at (54) which according to the VC has Miami also giving up its 4th (111). At this juncture we owe Miami 2 points but don't have a mid 7th rounder to give, but will later.

Then later that 4th (111) is traded back to Minnesota for their 4th (120) and as per the VC their 6th (189) and 7th (229). That 7th (229) is worth 1.2 points so we send it to Miami for prior considerations (the 2 points we owed them from the prior trade).

TIME OUT TO COME UP FOR AIR: Then continuing our insatiable quest to acquire ever more picks while running the risk of losing our first targeted player, we respond to Tampa Bay's request to trade up their 2 (43) for our now 2 (38) and in order to make the points work Tampa throws in their second 4 (126) and a 6 in 2014.

Houston meanwhile gets antsy for a player, and having extra picks, wants to trade its 3rd (89) for a 3rd (83) with Houston adding in its 5th (160) and 7th (233).

Then with Dallas's own pick in the 5th round (151), we trade it back to Green Bay at (159) with the VC showing that GB would add in their 7th rounder (232). leaving them short by 3.2 points so we obtain their 6th in 2014, which we promptly trade to Philadelphia for a 7 (218) this year as they have two earlier 7th rounders plus a 7th Compensatory pick. They really didn't want four 7th round picks this year. 

When the dust is finally settled we have 16 picks instead of 6, so then with the 16 accumulated picks we draft as follows:

Round 2 (43) LARRY WARFORD, ROG, Kentucky.
Round 2 (54) BRIAN SCHWENKE, C, California
Round 3 (80) KIKO ALONSO, LB, Oregon - can play inside or outside.
Round 3 (89) COREY LEMONIER, DE, Auburn. This is optional pick. Have flexibility here.
Round 3 (93) BRIAN WINTERS, LOG, Kent State
Round 4 (103) STEPFAN TAYLOR, RB, Stanford, ideal backup for DeMarco Murray; or can take KENJON BARNER, RB, Oregon, if you want speed compliment to Murray, as Felix Jones is?
Round 4 (114) JELANI JENKINS, OLB, Florida
Round 4 (120) BENNIE LOGAN, DT, LSU
Round 4 (126) JOSH EVANS, FS, Florida
Round 5 (159) REID FRAGEL, OT, Ohio State, or best OT available.
Round 5 (160) DWAYNE GRATZ, CB, UCONN; or JOSH JOHNSON, CB. Purdue
Round 6 (185) EARL WOLFF, DS, N.C. State, or COOPER TAYLOR, DS, Richmond.  
Round 6 (189) COREY FULLER, WR, Virginia Tech, or CONNOR VERNON, WR ,Duke
Round 7 (218) OMAR HUNTER, DT, Florida; or ADAM REPLOGLE, DT, Indiana
Round 7 (232) BRADEN BROWN, OT, BYU
Round 7 (233) ZACH ROGERS, WR, Tennessee, or JAKE STONEBURNER, TE, Ohio State; or BOJAY FILIMOEATU, LB, Utah State, whichever one best adds depth to a position.

Heavy emphasis on the offensive line, which is a need are all power interior lineman which would keep the offense on the field longer by running for first downs, which of course as a byproduct, will also help the passing game, and also the defense by keeping them off the field.The 

also calls for being very aggressive in the Undrafted Free Agent market as there are a number of promising players who will not be drafted. Remember when Dallas got Pro Bowlers in 1970 and 1973 from the Undrafted Free Agent market in Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson, but one would have to be an Old Timer to remember that.