- Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com
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We're less than a month away from the draft, and many of you are concerned about where the Cowboys are headed in that area. For the past few weeks, we've had questions about Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley and safety Ken Hamlin and the future of Roy Williams. Somebody in our weekly mailbag even quotes Bruce Lee. After the owners' meetings and a nice chat with Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips, we let the people in on what they have to say.
Q: If Jerry Jones wants his Dallas Cowboys to play a home game in the Super Bowl, why is he not signing any free agents? He at least can sign one under this uncapped year. Why not Darren Sharper? Then they can get an offensive lineman in the first round and maybe Jordan Shipley in the second. -- B3 (Dallas-Fort Worth)
A: B3, I don't think the issue is signing free agents. The Cowboys have done that over the years, even locked up some of their core players. The Cowboys have a payroll of $125 million, one of the highest in the league. They are spending money, or have spent it. As far as premier free agents available -- Julius Peppers, etc. -- the Cowboys have players at those positions. Sharper will turn 35 in November and I don't think you want to go older at the safety position. Drafting a safety in the first or second round would be a wise move for them. As far as Shipley is concerned, Jerry Jones said the team might not draft a wide receiver.
Q: At what position do you see the Cowboys the weakest? Do you see them taking a safety or an offensive lineman first in the upcoming draft? -- Chris (Las Vegas)
A: I have mixed emotions here. The Cowboys seem weakest at the offensive line position. The starting left tackle, Flozell Adams, turns 35 this spring. The starting left guard, Kyle Kosier, is in the last year of his contract. Doug Free is ready to move in at left tackle, but what about the left guard spot?
Jerry Jones said Pat McQuistan can move from tackle to guard, but that's a big "if." Cory Procter and Duke Preston haven't established themselves, but the club does have hopes for Robert Brewster. As far as the draft, take the best guy available. I think they take a safety.
Q: So I keep hearing that Ken Hamlin is a great asset to our secondary due to his ability to call an opponents' offense. BUT, he isn't exactly what I'd call a ballhawk by any stretch of the imagination. So is it selfish for me to want to see a Darren Sharper-style free safety show up instead of Hamlin? Also Calvin, let's say they do get rid of Hamlin; how do you think that role or lack of leadership in that spot could hurt us [or not]? Thanks. -- Big fan of the blog David Rudd (Austin)
A: David, Hamlin was average last year, and the club wants him to make more plays. The team is interested in seeing Michael Hamlin and Alan Ball become playmakers at the free safety position. When Ken Hamlin was out for those four games with an ankle injury, Wade Phillips had nothing but praise for Ball, and secondary coach Dave Campo liked what Ball did with his athletic ability. I don't think the Cowboys will miss much in leadership from Hamlin not calling the signals. Ball or Michael Hamlin can do that.
Q: So instead of talking about who the Cowboys should pick up in free agency or which running back the Cowboys should trade, I'm going to ask a very simple and fun question. What players do you think the Cowboys should go after when draft day rolls around? -- Robin Koppmeiners (Milwaukee)
A: That's not a fun question. It's an almost impossible question to answer. The Cowboys have needs on the offensive line and at safety. I think those two positions will get addressed in the first two rounds.
Q: As a lifelong Cowboys fan, born and raised in Dallas and now living in DeKalb, Ill., where Sam Hurd went to school, I take special interest in his career. What are the Cowboys' plans for Sam? -- Paul Hendley (DeKalb, Ill.)
A: Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips have praised the young receiver. Hurd was the team leader in special team tackles with 19. His progression is getting better, yet we would like to see him get on the field more. With Kevin Ogletree emerging, I'm sure Hurd realizes he needs to step up his game.
Q: Do you see Jerry really drafting Dez Bryant if he slides to our pick? Why waste a first-round pick on a wide receiver when we clearly need a new tackle? I've always heard and seen that you can get quality WRs in the later rounds. If Dallas wants to use a first-round pick on a WR, why not trade for Brandon Marshall, who is proven and better? Do you think that if Taylor Mays slips to us that we would snag him? -- David Chumley (Wills Point, Texas)
A: If you trade for Marshall, you have to pay him Roy Williams-type money, a big-money contract averaging close to $9 million. Jerry Jones said he wants to talk to Bryant in case he does slide. I doubt Bryant is going to slide. But the Cowboys have to be prepared. Now, saying that, I agree an offensive lineman is important to the club. As far as Mays slipping, he's gotten a first-round grade from the club. Whether he falls to where the Cowboys pick remains to be seen.
Q: How do the Cowboys feel about Jason Williams? Little is said about him. After his injury healed last year, he still made little impact. They seemed very high on him as their first draft choice last year. -- Larry Gray (Hurst)
A: The Cowboys like Jason Williams, but when you're hurt, it's hard to get evaluated. This is an important year for Williams, and it's only his second with the team. Dallas would like to get younger at the inside linebacker position in the draft and would rather use Williams as a future starter.
Q: Do you think Coach Phillips is going to require that Jason Garrett get a little deeper into the playbook because of the depth of talent? -- Isaiah (Long Beach, Calif.)
A: When you have so many weapons -- three quality running backs, numerous young receivers -- it's hard to get everybody the ball. I think Garrett was creative in terms of getting as many people snaps and putting them in situations to make plays. Garrett's biggest issue is making sure Roy Williams produces in 2010. Phillips said Williams wants a bigger role in the offense and wants Garrett to give it to him.
Q: Do you think Roy Williams will be back this season, and do you see the Cowboys taking a WR in the first three rounds of the draft? -- Scott (McCordsville, Ind.)
A: Yes, Roy will return in 2010. Why shouldn't he? The big question is whether he can produce this year. If he doesn't come through with some big numbers, I'm sure this will be his last year in Dallas.
Q: Bruce Lee said, "Excellence has more to do with elimination than addition." Last year proved it true: Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Jessica Simpson. When you eliminate distractions your focus is much clearer. Who else should be eliminated to improve the focus? -- Confab Johnson (Texas)
A: I think the Cowboys are a pretty focused team. Yes, the release of several players has helped that. I don't think Tony Romo's ex-girlfriend had anything to do with the team. Good or bad. She's not on the field or in the meeting rooms, so talking about her is pointless. Saying that, when the offseason program started, the Cowboys had close to 30 people show up last week, and this week the numbers are about the same. So the focus of the team remains strong going into this year.
Mailbag: With core players and payroll in place, Cowboys concentrate on draft.