Thanks to the NFL lockout reversing the typical chain of events for the offseason the Cowboys had to scramble like every other team to develop a new plan. Now that the draft has been completed it has left some very apparent roster needs for the Cowboys whenever free agency finally does get under way.
The drafting of Tyron Smith seems to indicate that Marc Colombo may be done in Dallas. I have serious doubts that the Cowboys have any desire to keep Colombo around after picking a tackle with the #9 pick in the draft. You don't pick a top ten player to sit him on the bench. And I don't see Colombo being ok with restructuring his contract and riding the pine next year.
The DeMarco Murray signing probably signals the end of Marion Barber's career in Dallas. The Cowboys need three running backs and they currently have four on the roster. It would be hard to imagine Barber coming back for another year with his bloated contract and deteriorating skills.
Safety will be the #1 priority in free agency. Gerald Sensabaugh will be a free agent and the Cowboys have made it clear that they intend to move Alan Ball back to cornerback this year. I don't think Barry Church is ready to step into a starting role and there really isn't anyone else on the roster who could even be considered a potential starter next year. So the Cowboys will likely re-sign Sensabaugh and then target one of the top free agent safeties. With the money they'll free up by cutting Barber, Colombo and maybe a few other veterans they should have the money to go after a top tier safety.
Defensive end is the #2 priority in free agency. I didn't name this the #1 priority only because I believe the Cowboys plan to re-sign Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen. And if Marcus Spears tests the market in free agency he might find that Dallas might not be so bad after all. I think the Cowboys will bring back Hatcher and Bowen but hopefully they have a plan B in place in case they can't bring both guys back. By failing to draft a defensive end the Cowboys have back themselves into a corner at this position.
Sam Hurd has probably played his last down in Dallas. He was going to test the free agent market anyway, but now the Cowboys really have no reason to pursue him since they drafted Dwayne Harris out of East Carolina. He has return skills that will make him a valuable game day asset. So the wide receiver corp will probably be Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Roy Williams, Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris on game days.
Hopefully the ruling will come down this week that forces the NFL to get the league year started so the Cowboys can fill their roster holes. I think they did a solid job with the draft, but we won't know for a few years if it was good or bad. But at least they addressed the offensive line and did enough that it isn't inconceivable that they can address enough of their needs in free agency to be a contender in 2011.