How Will Dallas Cowboys' Free-Agency Strategy Affect Approach in the Draft?

Alex Hall@@AlexKHallCorrespondent IIIMarch 20, 2014

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton (69) sacks Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) in the first half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

The Dallas Cowboys have brought in more than a few players through free agency but none change the team's draft strategy. After a season where the Dallas defense finished as one of the NFL's worst units, the Cowboys are expected to focus heavily on getting coordinator Rod Marinelli a lot of young talent.

That is what the team did for Marinelli when it signed former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton to a one-year deal, as reported by ESPN Dallas' Todd Archer. The 27-year-old will now serve as the anchor of Dallas' depleted defensive line, a role that once belonged to Washington's newest member in Jason Hatcher.

While signing Melton was a huge step towards rebuilding Dallas' front four, it is a unit that has lost all of its familiar starters. Anthony Spencer is a free agent. Jay Ratliff is in Chicago. Hatcher is in Washington and DeMarcus Ware is in Denver.

Melton can't stop the run and rush the quarterback with only George Selvie's help. With both players in the fold, though, it's likely that Dallas is looking at Kony Ealy to be its first-round pick this draft.

Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller seems to think that Ealy is the Cowboys' best option as well, tweeting:

Bringing in Ealy to pair with Melton and Selvie fixes a lot up front. Ealy had 9.5 sacks during his redshirt junior season at Missouri, showing he knows how to get his hands on quarterbacks. He would be a great help for the Cowboys when they look to rush the passer.

Dallas also brought in veterans Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain this free agency to help add depth to that defensive line. Suddenly, things look far from depleted for this unit.

None of Dallas' free-agency moves change the fact that taking a safety early on would be a smart move. The Cowboys took J.J. Wilcox in the third round just last season but two young safeties in the fold is better than one.

A potential target at this position could be Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois. writer Rowan Kavner believes Ward could be a second-round selection for Dallas due to his ability to be "everywhere on the field."

Defensive end and safety are the Cowboys' two most obvious needs on defense, but the one offensive position that needs addressing is quarterback. Just because the Cowboys signed former Browns first-rounder Brandon Weeden doesn't mean the team isn't still looking for Tony Romo's successor.

Weeden was signed, at most, to be Kyle Orton's successor as Romo's backup; at the very least, he was brought in to be a training camp arm. Someone like Jimmy Garoppolo, who should be available in the second or third round, will be a name thrown around Dallas' war room quite a bit come April.

With the team in need of more than a little defensive help, this might not be viewed by some as the year to invest in a quarterback. The problem with not investing this year is the fact this draft class is so talented that waiting another round to fill a defensive need to take a QB isn't going to hurt a whole lot.

Romo will be 34 and coming off two recent back surgeries by the beginning of next season. At some point soon, Dallas needs to invest in a quarterback to develop for the future. That quarterback likely isn't going to be Weeden, but there's no reason it shouldn't be Garoppolo.

The Cowboys have made some strides towards improving their team in free agency, but no move should deter them from their biggest draft needs this offseason. Defensive end, safety, more defensive depth and investing in a quarterback are the necessary and likely moves to see from Dallas this April.