With Cowboys' 10 picks in 2021 NFL draft, it's time for Trader Jerry Jones

FRISCO, Texas -- Since taking over the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, owner and general manager Jerry Jones has made 161 trades, and 68 of them have been draft-day deals.

Hence the nickname Trader Jerry.

Jones has made bold moves nobody saw coming, like moving up to draft cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012 with the No. 6 pick in a deal with the St. Louis Rams. A year later, Jones engineered the Cowboys moving down 13 spots in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to draft center Travis Frederick at No. 31.

Some years there have been a dizzying number of trades for the Cowboys, like in 2008, when Dallas made eight draft-day deals. Then there were three years when the Cowboys made no moves during the draft: 2000, 2011 and 2015.

The Cowboys have 10 selections in the 2021 NFL draft. Only the Philadelphia Eagles (11) have more.

The Cowboys need Trader Jerry to reappear.

They don't need wild-uncle Jerry making trades for trades' sake, which seemed to be the case in 2009, a special-teams-centric draft that turned out to be one of the Cowboys' worst drafts.

The Cowboys need with-a-purpose Jerry to make moves.

In NFL free agency, the Cowboys targeted quantity over quality, adding 10 players -- none with a salary-cap hit greater than $2.5 million. They were not going to be big spenders on the open market and have felt for years that the lifeblood of an organization is the draft.

With so many high-priced players already on the roster, such as quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith and offensive tackles Tyron Smith and Zack Martin, the Cowboys need to hit on their draft picks this year to build depth and to balance out a salary-cap crunch.

To many, it might scream that using all 10 picks is the best way to help cost certainty, but there is no way 10 draft picks, plus a couple of undrafted free agents, will make the 53-man roster. Before folks get carried away by remembering sixth- and seventh-round success stories, there are far more misses and never-weres.

Despite the Cowboys' 6-10 finish in 2020, they still believe -- rightly or wrongly -- they have a talented roster, and earning a spot among the 53 will be difficult for a rookie. Dallas needs to strategically pinpoint players at specific positions.

During last year's draft, the Cowboys made that exact kind of move, giving up fifth-round picks in 2020 and 2021 to the Eagles to select Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz. They called Biadasz a "blinking light," which meant he was much higher on their draft board than the 146th pick. This season, the Cowboys view Biadasz as their starting center.

Staying put at No. 10 in this year's draft makes the most sense because the Cowboys could select the best defensive player available if the first nine selections are offensive players. By now, the Cowboys' needs are obvious: defense, defense and more defense. Maybe sprinkle in an offensive lineman, too.

The Cowboys' second-round pick is at No. 44. What if they gave up No. 44 and their pick at No. 75 or No. 99 to move up earlier in the second round, or even to the tail end of the first round, to draft, say, Alabama defensive tackle Christian Barmore? No team wants to be as thin at defensive tackle as it appears the Cowboys are, and Barmore could fix that issue.

The Cowboys have two picks apiece in the third, fourth and sixth rounds because of trades or compensatory selections. They can also deal 2022 picks if necessary to get trades done.

A few times in recent drafts, Jones has lamented moves that in hindsight worked out better the way they ended up happening. He thought the Cowboys played it too safe in selecting Martin over quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 2014 draft. Martin could one day join Larry Allen as the best offensive linemen in franchise history.

In 2016, Jones could not get over the fact that he did not land quarterback Paxton Lynch in a trade back into the first round. The Cowboys ended up with Prescott in the fourth round, and he was just rewarded with a four-year, $160 million deal as their franchise quarterback.

With counsel from executive vice president Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay, Trader Jerry can put his imprint on the 2021 draft.

It's time for Trader Jerry to be bold.