The Cowboys had a shot at heading to the playoffs as a wildcard team following the 2012 regular season, but a Week 17 loss to the Washington Redskins on the road ended their playoff hopes and left them with an 8-8 record to cap off a disappointing season.
The NFC East is a tough division and it will only be tougher. Robert Griffin III being in his second season for the Redskins and a new coach for the Eagles could drive up competition in the division even more. If that's the case, the Cowboys will have to be better in 2013.
While rumors are beginning to swirl that Jerry Jones and the Cowboys front office is hoping to work out an extension for quarterback Tony Romo, the team will also look to the draft and to free agency to help plug some holes in the roster and get back into the playoffs in 2013.
Biggest need: Offensive line
The offensive line is in major need of an upgrade in 2013. Not only did they struggle at times to open up running lanes for DeMarco Murray, but they struggled at times to protect Romo. The Cowboys offensive line allowed Romo to be sacked 36 times during the regular season, which doesn't seem like a lot, but considering Romo had some injury issues, it was.
The biggest area of need for the Cowboys is between the tackles as they're weakest at guard and center.
Other needs: Defensive line, safety
The Cowboys are also in need of help when it comes to their defensive front seven. They'll have to deal with the likes of RG3, Eli Manning, Alfred Morris, David Wilson, LeSean McCoy and others for the foreseeable future and since the defensive line could only account for 7.5 sacks in 2012, they'll need to upgrade the position to stay competitive.
Linebacker could have been an issue, but the Cowboys made a surprise decision to pony up over $10 million for Anthony Spencer at the franchise tag deadline. Now they will turn their attention to shoring up the secondary. Barry Church is coming off injured reserve and Gerald Sensabaugh was unexpectedly released on the same day that Spencer scored his huge paycheck, leaving Dallas desperate for bodies at safety.
NFL Draft outlook: Cowboys drafting in middle of the road
The Cowboys have the No. 18 overall pick in the first round. Mock drafts for the Cowboys have been pretty inconsistent so far as some predict the team will select a linebacker and others predict they'll go after offensive or defensive linemen. Either way, the Cowboys should be able to get a player that can contribute in a position of need immediately with their first-round pick.
Salary cap situation: Not a ton of cash to throw around
The Cowboys aren't in the greatest of shape when it comes to their salary cap. They signed cornerback Brandon Carr to a five-year, $50 million deal last offseason and they will have to hope they can restructure his deal, along with Romo's, Jason Witten's and DeMarcus Ware's to save the money necessary to bring in a couple of free agents. If they can't do that, they'll be in trouble heading into the draft.