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Jones Open to Cowboys Drafting OL in 1st Round

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Jerry Jones is open to doing something he has never done in the NFL draft, and something the Dallas Cowboys haven't done since 1981, eight years before he bought the team.

The Cowboys owner might use his first-round pick on an offensive lineman when they choose 27th overall Thursday night.

"It's certainly possible for us to do it because we're 27, we're real close to the second round," Jones said Tuesday. "If a quality offensive lineman was there, then it'd be a real consideration."

Dallas earlier this month released five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams, who was a second-round pick 12 years ago. While fourth-year player Doug Free is expected to replace Adams as the starter, getting line depth for now and the future is a priority.

Even with his well-deserved reputation for draft-day deals, Jones insisted it was "unlikely" he will try to use the 27th pick to move up in the first round.

But he didn't discount the possibility of trying to add more picks in what he considers a "deep draft" by moving down or trading a player already on his roster. Jones acknowledged there have been inquiries from other teams, though he refused to go into any details.

The Cowboys go into the three-day, seven-round draft with six picks -- one in every round but the fifth. They had an NFL-high 12 choices last April, even though their first didn't come until the third round.

Nearly three weeks after cutting ties with Adams, Jones indicated it was a financial move. Adams, who turns 35 next month, was due a $2.5 million roster bonus in June and a $5 million base salary for the 2010 season. His contract was through 2013.

With an uncapped season ahead, the Cowboys were able to release Adams without any salary cap repercussions.

"We have had, in a way, a security blanket there for many, many seasons. But everything about that move had Doug Free's thumbprint all over it. He played well," Jones said. "We've spent some time over the last few weeks looking at a lot of Doug Free tape, just to make sure everybody in the room had a good feel for what we were looking for, how we would improve, comparing Doug's play with the play of other tackles in college as well as with other tackles in the league."

Free, a fourth-round pick in 2007, started the final seven games of the regular season at right tackle for injured Marc Colombo. He took over for an injured Adams in the second quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game at Minnesota.

Safety Ken Hamlin, who was scheduled to make $5.5 million this season and also had a contract through 2013, was released the same day as Adams.

Jones said third-year player Alan Ball, who started three games Hamlin missed with injury last season, is a "key ingredient," and he is also counting on veteran safety Gerald Sensabaugh.

Despite the obvious voids in the offensive line and secondary, Jones said the Cowboys "aren't hostage to any position in this draft."

The Cowboys won't be picking a quarterback or a kicker, having added both in last year's draft. Anything else is possible.

Dallas didn't have a first-round pick last April because of the deal to acquire receiver Roy Williams midway through the 2008 season. Williams is coming off a disappointing season (38 catches, 596 yards, seven touchdowns) after Terrell Owens' departure cleared the way for him to be the No. 1 receiver.

So what happens if a top-rated receiver, say Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant, who Jones had dinner with, slips out of the top 15 picks Thursday night? Would the Cowboys try to move up?

"That's unlikely because I like where we are at receiver. So unlikely," Jones said. "And I'm not defining whether it's unlikely one that would slip is unlikely to slip, or whether I'm likely to do it if he slips. Seriously, I'm having a play with words here, but I don't think that's likely."

Without elaborating on unsigned Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin (81 catches, 1,320 yards, 11 TDs) and Sensabaugh, Jones said the Cowboys want to sign them to long-term contracts.

"Both of them are long-term players in my mind with the Cowboys," he said.

More: Watch JJ's Pre-Draft Press Conference

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