Cowboys' offseason made better with Will McClay staying put

FRISCO, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' offseason is off to a great start.

Senior director of college and pro personnel Will McClay is not going anywhere.

"Will is happy here,” executive vice president Stephen Jones told reporters at the Senior Bowl on Tuesday. “There have been people who have been interested in him."

Sources said a few teams reached out to McClay about potentially interviewing for their general-manager or personnel-chief vacancies, but he declined them. It’s the second consecutive year McClay has taken himself out of the mix to run his own show.

That should not mean the 50-year-old doesn’t want to do just that one day; it just has to be the right situation. While an argument can be made against turning down a chance to have one of only 32 such jobs available in the world, it shows McClay is interested in the right job, not just any job.

Too many times scouts take the big bump in pay and responsibility without truly understanding what they are getting into, from ownership to the coaches to the level of talent on the roster, only to be shown the door three years later.

McClay is in a position to be choosy.

He is the highest-ranking personnel man not named Jones at The Star. Jerry Jones will always maintain final say. Stephen Jones carries the tag of director of player personnel as well.

The Cowboys’ structure, however, gives McClay a level of autonomy others in his role don’t typically have across the league. He sets up the draft board. He can set up his scouting staff. He has a large say in free agency during the offseason as well as in-season.

McClay’s ability to find players anywhere and everywhere gives him a credibility boost with the Joneses. That he has coached affords him a perspective most scouts don’t have and gives him credibility with the coaching staff. He can understand why a coach might favor a veteran over a younger talent.

Over the past few seasons, McClay has found players off the street (Jack Crawford), off practice squads (David Irving) and in restricted free agency (Benson Mayowa). In his three drafts, the Cowboys have found 10 starters or key reserves in Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Geoff Swaim, DeMarcus Lawrence, Anthony Hitchens, Byron Jones, Damien Wilson, Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown.

Five of those selections have come in the fourth round or later: Swaim (seventh, 2015), Hitchens (fourth, 2014), Prescott (fourth, 2016), Wilson (fourth, 2015) and Brown (sixth, 2016).

There is an element of luck, as with Prescott, but there is skill involved.

In a salary-cap world, teams must hit on draft picks to balance out their finances. If a team is too top-heavy with high-priced stars, there is no foundation for success.

McClay and his staff are in Mobile, Alabama, this week for the Senior Bowl and will kick their draft preparations into high gear for the next three months. They will also scout free agents knowing the Cowboys won’t have the chance to pay top dollar -- unless they do a lot of contract restructuring -- on the open market. If there is an opportunity to secure a talent at the right price, McClay will know about him.

Mayowa had two sacks in his first three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders, yet McClay saw a player who could fit in Rod Marinelli’s system and be cost-effective. It wasn’t always pretty for Mayowa, who was deactivated for three games, but he led the Cowboys with six sacks.

At some point McClay will be presented an opportunity that will be too good to pass up and he will have to take that job. Maybe that happens next season or the season after that.

Until then, the Cowboys should be thankful they have him.