Cowboys revamp the defensive line

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jerry Jones doesn't believe his team is rebuilding. It's a word not in his vocabulary because of quarterback Tony Romo, whom Jones says is still in his prime.

While Jones' team isn't in a rebuilding mode overall, massive changes took place with the defensive line.

Jones said the line needed to be revamped this offseason after drastic changes occurred during the 2013 season.

Projected starters Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware will play for somebody else next season. Anthony Spencer, another projected starter, is unsigned and recovering from microfracture surgery.

“We didn't have those guys like we had them on paper before the season started,” Jones said. “We had injuries, had our issues with Ratliff, Ware was compromised by injury and we lost Spencer, (Tyrone) Crawford (torn Achilles), I don't need to go down the list. But sitting here this time last year, relative to sitting here right now, we were better on paper than we are right now, for sure. But the line we played with, we're better today than the line we played with, and we have players who probably have a better chance of not having as much negative health issues as we did last season.”

Jones is bringing back two starters from the 2013 team in Nick Hayden (tackle) and George Selive (end).

He was forced to find replacements, and he trusted his personnel staff and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli to find the pieces.

The Cowboys signed tackle Terrell McClain for depth and end Jeremy Mincey as a projected starter replacing Ware. But the cherry on top is Henry Melton, who will be a pass-rushing tackle replacing Hatcher.

Despite the new players, Jones didn't rule out another lineman being selected in the NFL draft, which starts May 8.

The Cowboys' moves on the defensive line are similar to what was done over a three-year period when the team made an overhaul to the offensive line.

It was an aging group and Jones' personnel staff drafted tackle Tyron Smith in 2011, signed Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau in free agency and signed Ronald Leary as an undrafted guard in 2012. The completion of the rebuilding effort ended last year with the selection of center Travis Frederick in the first round.

It's never easy to rebuild in city like Dallas. But you can rebuild certain parts of you team, which the Cowboys are doing with the defensive line.

“Well the challenge is, it's like holding two handfuls of jello,” Jones said. “When you get it shored up on one hand, it's coming out the other side. That's the makeup of dealing with contracts, players' skill level, expiring contracts -- that's the challenge.”