They started at the NFL scouting combine, where the Seahawks approached the Cowboys about a deal for All-Pro safety Earl Thomas and asked for their first-round pick. They continued leading up to the draft, as well as into the second and third rounds.
The Cowboys had the 50th overall pick in the second round and saw a chance to get Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams, who could be their starting left guard. The Cowboys had the 81st overall pick in the third round and tried to see if Seattle would bite on that but did not get much of a response.
So the Thomas-to-Dallas talk is over, right?
Not necessarily, although Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is on record saying they want to keep Thomas. But everyone has a price, and maybe the teams will be able to reach a deal as the spring goes on or in the summer.
The Cowboys’ need for a safety would seem more acute after the draft. Seattle’s offseason has been about reshaping the roster after letting big names such as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett go. Perhaps they want Thomas around as they retool, but he is set to be a free agent after this season.
“It is obvious that we didn’t pick a safety, but it just didn’t work out,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “When we were looking at them or thinking about them, sometimes they came off the board in front of us and other times we decided to pick a player that we thought was a better football player instead of a safety.”
As Derwin James slid closer to No. 19 in the first round, the Cowboys did not get tempted. Once Vita Vea went off the board, Leighton Vander Esch was their top choice and they got him. The Cowboys had safeties Terrell Edmunds, Tracy Walker, Tarvarius Moore and Kyzir White in for pre-draft visits to The Star and all were gone by the fourth round.
A few well-known veterans remain available in free agency, such as Eric Reid, Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston, but the Cowboys were not enthused enough about them before the draft because they did not believe these players were the best fits for their systems.
Without taking a safety in the draft, maybe they bend some on that philosophy, but owner and general manager Jerry Jones did not seem to be too eager to make a move on any free agents.
The Cowboys have Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods penciled in as their starting safeties. They also like Kavon Frazier, who was part of a safety rotation late last season. Beyond that they don’t have another veteran safety on the roster unless you consider Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie as options.
Jones has started the last two seasons at safety, but the Cowboys moved him back to cornerback this offseason. When the Cowboys drafted Awuzie in the second round last year, they mentioned the possibility of him playing safety and used him for a brief spell there as a rookie. He ended the season as a starting cornerback and projects to be there again in 2018.
“I don’t know that we need numbers. I don’t think that is the issue,” Stephen Jones said. “Obviously, we will fill that in college free agency. I think the bigger question is, can we find a guy that can really compete with Xavier. At the end of the day, that was the goal in the draft, and it didn’t work out that way. We’ll continue to look at options as we move forward and continue to see what happens in our roster.”
Could that be Thomas?
The Cowboys’ season effectively ended last December in Week 16, when Seattle won at AT&T Stadium. But the last memory is of Thomas telling coach Jason Garrett outside the Cowboys’ locker room to come get him.
The dream for Thomas and for a lot of Cowboys fans is not dead yet.