Big Bang Coming Soon

While the Cowboys didn't make much noise at 12:01 AM Saturday morning, don't expect that to last very long.

Entering the 2006 offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have needs across the board -- right tackle, linebacker, receiver, linebacker, safety and defensive tackle.

Their goal is to not draft for need and take the best player available.

To that end, they plan to be very aggressive in free agency to fill as many needs as possible, so they won't have to reach in the draft.

And with $20 to $25 million in cap room, the Cowboys have the flexibility to accomplish all of their goals.

The push back of free agency because of the labor talks had the Cowboys currently stuck in neutral like every other team around the league, but when the new league year began on Friday the Cowboys planned to strike quickly.

"We will be active early," owner Jerry Jones insisted. "We will start setting up visits and getting people in to see if we can get some people signed."

Keep in mind just because the Cowboys address a need in the free agency doesn't mean they will not draft someone at that position in the draft. This is especially true at offensive tackle where Dallas will leave no stone unturned in trying to shore up their deficiencies up front.

They would love to draft a tackle in the first round, but it has to be the right fit for the team. There are a couple of tackles who are first-round worthy, but there are several who will go in the first two rounds.

With the Cowboys in position to take the best player, receiver Chad Jackson might be the best available athlete when the Cowboys pick at no. 18.

There are a number of tackles who will be available in the second round who could potentially help the Cowboys.

That is true at safety and linebacker as well.

If the Cowboys do go offense in the first round, it will be the first time they took and offensive player in the first round since tight end David LaFleur in 1997.

Still, free agency is here and the Cowboys will not take long to make their agenda known to the general public. Leading the wishlist, of course, is help on the offensive line, as several aging veterans like Marco Rivera and Larry Allen, combined with injury problems at left tackle and inconsistency at center and right tackle, have Dallas looking at multiple players in free agency.

According to several published reports, Dallas has already contacted former Jets center Kevin Mawae and tackle Jason Fabini, among others. In fact, don't be surprised to see Mawae invited to Valley Ranch for a visit in the very near future, says one source.

And that's just the beginning.

With needs across the board, and with plenty of cap room available, the next seven to 10 days promises to be as exciting as anything we've seen at Valley Ranch in recent years.

And who knows, the Cowboys may in fact land the biggest name available before it's all said and done.

So fasten your seatbelts. It may not have happened at 12:01 Saturday morning, but it won't be much longer before Dallas joins the free agent party - in a major way.

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