IRVING, Texas -- A week from Wednesday, the Dallas Cowboys will hold their state of the union news conference in Oxnard, California, but to hear executive vice president Stephen Jones speak about the topic on Tuesday, the state of the Cowboys is strong as they enter the 2015 season.
“It’s very exciting, and I do believe we’ve put together a team here that’s one of the better ones we’ve had in quite some time,” Jones said at the opening of the Dallas Cowboys Club inside Terminal A at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. “I do believe it’s all coming together for us.”
The Cowboys are still riding the high of signing Dez Bryant to a five-year, $70 million contract last week, which helped them avoid a gigantic headache had Bryant followed through on his threat to sit out of training camp and possibly regular-season games if he didn’t have a long-term deal.
In fact, this year is the first time in quite a while the Cowboys enter camp drama-free. A year ago at this time, it almost seemed as if 8-8 was a wildly optimistic prediction for the Cowboys. Tony Romo was coming off his second back surgery in two years and didn’t take part in the preseason, and some believed that the defense would be historically bad.
Last year, the Cowboys surprised everybody -- except maybe themselves -- and won the NFC East and advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs. Because of that finish and what the Cowboys accomplished in their offseason, expectations are raised for 2015.
The Cowboys’ biggest loss was DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards in 2014 but signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. They also lost key defensive parts in Justin Durant, Bruce Carter, Henry Melton, George Selvie and Sterling Moore.
But they feel like they added pieces to a strong core.
The Cowboys added the best pass-rusher in free agency in Greg Hardy and received good news when his 10-game suspension was reduced to four games. Hardy is contemplating whether to seek a further reduction through the legal system, but Jones said the Cowboys play no role in that process. In the draft, despite having just one first-round pick, the Cowboys added three first-round-caliber talents in cornerback Byron Jones (first round), defensive end Randy Gregory (second round) and guard La’el Collins (undrafted).
The Bryant signing capped it all off.
“He’s such a big part of our team, not only from his skill level and what he does from that standpoint, but he’s also an emotional leader for our team as well,” Jones said. “People look up to him. He brings a lot of energy to the practice field. When you’re in the dog days of training camp, he brings everything up another level. It’ll be great having him from day one at training camp.”
The player-acquisition job does not end when training camp begins. In fact, it might be more important. But training camp gives the first glimpse into what the Cowboys can be.
“I’m not a big fan of grading an offseason,” Jones said. “Everybody thinks when they draft players they did well because they drafted them where they had them on their board. The question is, was your board accurate? The same thing with free agents and same thing with signing contracts. It’s all about the production on the field. We obviously feel like we got a lot accomplished. Whether we did or not remains to be seen, and it’ll all be in whether we have a successful season. We theoretically got done what we felt like we needed to do to make our team better and take the next step. Now we’ll see if it happens.”