Team-By-Team Offseason Analysis

Today: Dallas Cowboys

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Offseason Recap: Cowboys

Coach: Bill Parcells (entering second season with team)

Players Released: Ryan Young, OL; Toby Gowin, P; Davy Ford, RB.

Free Agents Lost: Ebenezer Ekuban, DE (Cleveland); Mario Edwards, CB (Tampa Bay).

Free Agents Added: Marcellus Wiley, DE (San Diego); DeMingo Graham, G (Houston).

Free Agents Re-Signed: Genarro DiNapoli, C; Traded Joey Galloway, WR; Traded For Drew Henson, QB; Keyshawn Johnson, WR,

Draft Picks: Rd. 2 (No. 43 overall), Julius Jones, RB, Notre Dame; 2 (52), Jacob Rogers, T, USC; 3 (83) Stephen Peterman, G, LSU; 4 (121), Bruce Thornton, CB, Georgia; 5 (144), Sean Ryan, TE, Boston College; 7 (205), Nathan Jones, CB, Rutgers; 7 (216), Patrick Crayton, WR, Northwestern Oklahoma State; 7 (223), Jacques Reeves, CB, Purdue.

Analysis

Every NFL team Bill Parcells has coached has improved by at least three victories in his second season with the club. Every NFL team Parcells has coached has reached the playoffs in his second season with the club.

That means that the Dallas Cowboys will go 13-3 or better this fall and reach the playoffs. That also means that Parcells has raised the bar of expectations very high indeed.

Last year, he amazed even his NFL coaching cohorts with the job that he did with the Cowboys, taking a club that had posted three straight 5-11 seasons under Dave Campo and, without major roster retooling, going 10-6 and reaching the playoffs. He did it with Quincy Carter as his quarterback and without a dominant running game. He did it because he made the Cowboys play hard and play a fundamentally sound game, and because the team led the NFL in total defense.

He has not overhauled the roster this offseason, either, even with observers around the league waiting for him to bring in a quarterback to replace Carter. The Cowboys obtained their quarterback of the future when they won the Drew Henson sweepstakes by trading a third-round draft choice in 2005 to the Houston Texans for the failed New York Yankees third baseman.

The question, though, is whether the Cowboys have their quarterback of the present. Many around the league expect Parcells to be reunited with Vinny Testaverde, signing the veteran quarterback after his expected release by the New York Jets next month.

Although Testaverde turns 41 in November, he showed while filling in for the injured Chad Pennington last season that he still has enough arm to be effective under the right circumstances. He would have been the AFC's fifth-rated passer if he had had enough attempts to qualify for the rankings. He had the best season of his career playing for Parcells with the Jets in 1998, and few around the league would be surprised if he ends up as Dallas's Opening Day starter next season.

The Cowboys already have acquired Testaverde's favorite 1998 target, wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, in a trade that sent wideout Joey Galloway to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson lacks Galloway's speed but should be an effective possession receiver for Parcells, complementing wide receivers Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant.

Second-round draft choice Julius Jones is slated to take over for Troy Hambrick as the Cowboys' starting tailback, and Hambrick could be traded. The Cowboys were criticized in some circles for their draft-day trade with Buffalo in which they moved out of the first round and passed up the opportunity to select the tailback regarded as the best in the draft, Oregon State's Steven Jackson. Jones's performance will determine whether the Cowboys were right or wrong. The trade enabled Dallas to address two needs in the second round -- the Cowboys took USC offensive tackle Jacob Rogers nine choices after they got Jones -- and to emerge with the Bills' first-round selection in next year's draft.

Rogers and guard Stephen Peterman, a third-round pick out of LSU, have a chance to be immediate starters on a Cowboys' offensive line that appears to be a problem area. Parcells has had trouble coexisting with veteran guard Larry Allen, and the eight-time Pro Bowl selection still could be traded or released if he shows up out of shape to a June minicamp. The Detroit Lions thought they had a deal for Allen worked out on draft day, but Allen declined to rework his contract because he preferred to be traded to Oakland.

The defense remains solid. The Cowboys hope that free-agent addition Marcellus Wiley can help as a pass rusher, although he totaled only nine sacks the past two seasons after amassing 23 1/2 in 2000 and 2001. Dallas still could use a cornerback to replace departed free agent Mario Edwards, but cornerback Terence Newman and safety Roy Williams will be a year older and a year better.

Will Parcells's second-year streaks continue? It's hard to imagine the Cowboys going 13-3 while playing in the improved NFC East, with the return of Coach Joe Gibbs to the Washington Redskins, the hiring of no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin by the New York Giants and the bold free-agent moves made by the Philadelphia Eagles. In that regard, Parcells could be a victim of his own first-year success in Dallas. But it also would be tough to bet against him getting the Cowboys back to the playoffs, given that he got a team with more holes -- and in the first year of his program -- that far last season.

Around the League

The San Francisco 49ers are facing a salary-cap squeeze but are considering signing a veteran quarterback after starter Tim Rattay tore a groin muscle during minicamp Friday. With Rattay scheduled to have surgery Tuesday, club officials say they expect him back in time to start the first regular-season game. But now, after releasing Jeff Garcia, they are left with Ken Dorsey atop their depth chart.

Kurt Warner already had listed the 49ers as one of the teams interested in him pending his expected release by the St. Louis Rams after June 1. Because Kerry Collins, Kordell Stewart, Jeff Blake and Damon Huard already are on the free-agent market, the 49ers probably will be offering a modest contract -- they are only $1.3 million beneath the salary cap but plan to clear another $1.75 million by releasing safety Zack Bronson next month. Still, a veteran now might view San Francisco as the closest thing to a starting job being available.

Broncos to Release Beuerlein

The Denver Broncos plan to release veteran quarterback Steve Beuerlein today. He is contemplating whether to retire or try to play one more season, and perhaps could be re-signed by Denver if he opts to play. The Broncos and Buffalo Bills have been the top contenders to sign Stewart . . . . The Cincinnati Bengals waived quarterback Kurt Kittner over the weekend, only nine days after claiming him off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons.