Jones thrilled with how things stack up for Cowboys in draft

IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones is soooo in his element at this draft.

He has two first-round picks, which means lavish trade bait.

His depth chart is already loaded, returning nearly every key player from the NFC's top-seeded team last season.

And, perhaps best of all, the clock will be ticking faster than ever -- just 10 minutes to make potentially franchise-altering decisions in the first round, seven minutes in the second round.

"If there is anything I can do, it's make a quick decision," Jones said, smiling wide and winking. "I left out several other (decision-making) aspects, but I can make a quick one."

Wheeling and dealing built the fortune Jones used to buy the Cowboys and he's kept at it in the NFL. Sure, the former oil wildcatter has hit plenty of dry holes on draft day, but he keeps coming back for more.

Consider how he snagged this year's bonus first-rounder.

Dallas had the No. 22 pick last year and Brady Quinn was still available. Jones let Cleveland take him in exchange for the Browns' top pick in '08, figuring the Browns would struggle with a rookie quarterback and he'd have a single-digit pick this year.

Alas, Dallas wound up right back at No. 22. The Cowboys also have No. 28, their own selection, as a reward for going 13-3 last season. (There's no punishment for losing their first playoff game, only the ongoing shame of not having won in the postseason since 1996.)

Ever the optimist, Jones is thrilled to have two picks in the bottom-third of the first round, calling them a better value than the expensive picks in the top 10.

"I do like our spot," Jones said. "I don't think of a time that I've ever liked it better."


"We had three No. 1s going in in '91," Jones said. "That was good stuff in those times. I'd like to put that one right with (this one) because the dollars were doable with those kinds of picks there at that particular time."

Dallas also has No. 61, the third-to-last pick of the second round Saturday. On Sunday, the Cowboys have the 27th, 28th or 29th pick in the third through seventh rounds, except for the sixth, when they have the No. 1 choice courtesy of a trade with Miami.

Don't worry about the details, though, because it's all subject to change.

"We will certainly be in the business of trading up and down," he said.

Despite all the head fakes and misdirection Jones was hoping to send at his pre-draft news conference Tuesday, there are still several undeniable truths about what his team needs.

Secondary is the biggest area of concern, with adding cornerbacks more important than adding safeties. The Cowboys also are looking for a running back to share the load with Marion Barber; a shifty, speedy guy is their most likely target since Barber already is the bruising type. Dallas also could use a quality young receiver to minimize the risk of relying on 34-year-old Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, who turns 34 around the start of training camp.

Mock drafters beware: Dallas hasn't taken an offensive player in the first round since taking tight end David LaFleur in 1997, although second-rounders Quincy Carter (2001) and Julius Jones (2004) were the team's first selections.

Whoever Dallas takes, the owner is counting on them to contribute right away, regardless of how stocked the roster already is.

"It'll be a big criteria," Jones said. "If we get in the project business, you'll see me trading down."

The going theory earlier this spring was that Jones would put together a package of picks to trade up and select Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, the most dynamic player to come out of Jones' alma mater in years and who happens to play a position the Cowboys are looking to fill.

Only problem: It would cost too many picks to move up and too many contract dollars, especially for a guy who would be sharing time. A more likely bet is Felix Jones, McFadden's backfield-mate last season who also is a blur on kick returns.

Still, Jones left the door open to a move up by saying Tuesday, "I don't want to totally dismiss it."

"There are some conditions if it hit just right, the perfect storm," he said.

The player who best fits Dallas' needs isn't on the draft board, but could be had if the price is right - Adam "Pacman" Jones.

The Titans own his rights, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell owns his future. Jones is suspended and will have to convince the commissioner later this summer that he's worthy of being reinstated. Pacman Jones and Jerry Jones have made their mutual interest well known, but the Cowboys and Titans have had trouble settling on the value for a gamebreaking cornerback-kick returner whose eligibility is in doubt.

"That thing is kind of really quieting down as far as we're concerned," Jones said. "I don't know that this draft will create a lot of energy there."

Another target of speculation is that the Cowboys will be after a proven receiver to team with T.O., perhaps even someone like Cincinnati's Chad Johnson.

Jones said Tuesday he's had trade talks for a veteran receiver this offseason, but wouldn't name names. Scratch Johnson off the candidate list because Jones said he hasn't negotiated with the Bengals. Cincinnati officials also have said they won't trade him, no matter how much he squawks.

This will be Jones' 20th draft and his second since Bill Parcells left.

Last year, Parcells protege Jeff Ireland was the team's scouting director, but he's since followed Parcells to Miami, along with others. The fallout is that Cowboys fans are fearing that Jones will botch this draft, like he did several times in the post-Jimmy Johnson, pre-Parcells years.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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