ORLANDO, Fla. -- Jerry Jones said Tuesday that the Dallas Cowboys are not in a rebuilding mode despite losing star defensive end DeMarcus Ware and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jason Hatcher in free agency and having his quarterback recovering from back surgery.
If anything, Jones said during a 35-minute chat with reporters at the NFL owners meetings, he thinks the team has improved its defensive line in free agency, led by the signing of tackle Henry Melton.
Jones, the Cowboys' owner and general manager, also pointed to the fact that Dallas has Tony Romo at quarterback as a reason the team is not rebuilding.
"Not at all," he said. "You don't rebuild with Romo. The firepower we have on offense and where we are with our running backs and our receivers -- you don't rebuild with an offense that's got the capability we've got. We didn't bring [Scott] Linehan in here to rebuild."
The Cowboys finished the last three seasons at 8-8, and coach Jason Garrett wasn't given a contract extension, leading to speculation he's coaching for his job.
But Jones said Garrett isn't on a hot seat and that he's on the same page with what the coach is trying to do.
"We've got a lot of experience together," Jones said. "It's no secret that we probably are shoulder to shoulder on the success we'd like for this team to have with him as head coach and what it would do for our fans' future, our future. He's more capable today than he was when he took over as head coach, certainly more capable than he came and got on the staff."
When free agency started, the Cowboys had less than $10 million to spend. They released Ware in a salary-cap decision and didn't attempt to re-sign Hatcher.
Ware signed with the Denver Broncos one day after his release, and Hatcher joined the Washington Redskins at the end of the first week of free agency.
The Cowboys signed three defensive linemen in Jeremy Mincy, Terrell McClain and Melton. Jones said signing those three made better financial sense than keeping Ware, who was scheduled to make a base salary of $12.2 million and have a cap hit of $16 million in 2014.
"We're not rebuilding," Jones said. "We are, by necessity, having to revamp the defensive line from where we were this time last year, not with what we played with last year.
"We've definitely improved to what we played with last year. We ought to do better if we do improve there fundamentally. Schematically, we should be better in the secondary. We should have better play throughout the secondary if we can have better defensive-line play."