For the Dallas Cowboys, however, all eyes were on 73-year-old newcomer Monte Kiffin, who was hired to replace Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator.
He was back at it in the NFL for the first time since 2008 when he ended a 13-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to join his son Lane at college stops in Tennessee and Southern Cal.
Kiffin's pedigree is not in question. The Buccaneers ranked among the league's top 10 in total defense in 11 of the 13 years Kiffin was the defensive coordinator. Tampa Bay also finished among the top 10 in fewest points allowed 10 times from 1996-2008.
But Kiffin struggled on the college level, especially the past two years at Southern Cal where there was talk about him no longer being able to relate to younger players or the fast-paced college game.
"Coaching is coaching," Kiffin said. "I just love coaching -- high school, college or the pros. I couldn't be more fired up. Coaches got to show up to."
Coach Jason Garrett was impressed with Kiffin's energy level. He said it was contagious.
"Kiff looked great," Garrett said. "He's got great energy. He's got great balance. He's fun to be around. He loves football. He's very passionate about it. He's a passionate teacher. You see that in the meeting rooms. You see that on the practice field. He's seen a lot of football in his life. He's a very wise football guy. He has that bounce in his step and that gleam in his eye in everything that he does-- very contagious. I love being around the guy."
The bigger issue is whether Kiffin still has game.
The Cowboys are betting on it as they made no big defensive personnel additions and are counting on Kiffin and his philosophy shift of moving the team from the 3-4 to the 4-3 as the biggest change.
"Yes, I do," owner Jerry Jones said without hesitation when asked of Kiffin being the team's biggest offseason addition on defense.
"He, of course, has been around and had a lot of repetitions with the dynamic of the team, practicing the tempo, the kind of practices you have. All of those things are something he really brings to camp. Monte is a lot of energy no matter when you're around him. And it is very productive and positive energy. So I think he'll bring that. Of course, it is contagious. He has (defensive line coach) Rod Marinelli with him and they're entire forte is getting a team ready and getting them ready to play. So not only are they good teachers, they're good motivators."
Kiffin laughs that off, saying it's not about him, "it's about the players."
Kiffin also pointed out that he will have more time to coach and teach in the NFL than in college because of classes and NCAA limits on practice hours.
"I know one thing, guys will be back (in the afternoon) and they don't have to go back to class," Kiffin said. "That's the way I like it. It's important to go to class, but we get back (in the afternoon) and have meetings and away we go."
Jones said coming to the Cowboys is the right fit for Kiffin, who prides himself on simple and sound fundamentals. That's good for Cowboys team that was often overloaded with too much stuff under Ryan.
"I think it's a perfect combination of getting us at the right level of the playbook," Jones said "Having come from college, having the background he has had, plus what we need probably was a reduced amount of things to do out there with the veteran players we've had. That's not to criticize anybody. It is a common goal and a common criticism of coaches. But I think he's the ideal fit for that and his circumstances coming from college really helps that."
Center Travis Frederick, the team's first round pick, is expected by owner Jerry Jones to be the opening-day starter.
The Cowboys will give Frederick a look at guard. But Jones wants him to make an immediate impact at center.
"We want him to come in here and contribute immediately," Jones said. "Jason says it right when he says there is competition, but certainly, there ought to be a spot for him on that offensive line. We think he has the combination of skill and mental (approach) to play immediately."
Tackle Doug Free remains with the Cowboys as of now. And if owner Jerry Jones has his way, he will be with the team in 2013. But the Cowboys are not going to pay Free his $7 million salary to play next season and want him to take a pay cut to around $3 million.
Free has yet to do so and the Cowboys aren't putting him on a timetable. But there is no question he will either take a pay cut or be cut after June 1.
"I'd like to keep him," Jones said. "We think that Doug Free can be an important part of the team. It's no secret that we're trying to renegotiate the contract. But I think it's a wrong assessment to say that anybody's saying 'take it or leave it' or we're at our wit's end or those kinds of things. That's just not the way I see it going."
Running back Joseph Randle is recovering from thumb surgery and will be limited in his work until training camp. He did mostly conditioning drills during minicamp.
The rookie fifth-round pick, who is supposed to come and share the load with starter DeMarco Murray, will be in a cast for six to eight weeks.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team knew Randle's situation when they drafted him. However, he said Randle won't be completely idle. Randle will do some individual drills and get plenty of mental reps in minicamp and on-field team activities leading up to training camp.
"It's certainly a restriction on his thumb, but I think candidly there are a lot of things we can do out here in OTAs and get that thumb clubbed up and he'll get a lot of work in, a lot of valuable repetition," Jones said. "And we made that decision when we drafted him. Was he going to be able to be ready and that is mentally as well, prepared, to get out here to camp and not have to make up all the lost time in OTAs? I think he will be."
"I actually don't know when it was injured, but it probably could have been as much as 10 or 15 years ago. It had me where I wasn't hitting the curveball like I know that I can."—Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on recovering from eye surgery to repair a damaged left retina.
Doug Free agreed to a pay cut to remain with the Cowboys, who guaranteed a $3.5 million salary in 2013, a reduction of $3.5 million from the $7 million he was originally scheduled to be paid.
The Cowboys also signed free-agent defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove to a one-year deal. Hargrove, 29, has played for five other teams, including the New Orleans Saints, and was suspended eight games for his alleged involvement in the bounty scandal before Paul Tagliabue rescinded the punishment. He replaced offensive guard D.J. Hall on the roster.
Free, signed to a four-year, $32 million deal in free agency two years ago—when the Cowboys stretched their resources to trump an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—moved to right tackle when the Cowboys opted to shift first-round pick Tyron Smith to the left side.
Free was the most-penalized offensive lineman in the NFL in 2012 with 15 infractions. That performance coupled with a cap figure over $10 million entering the offseason led to speculation he'd be released.
The new two-year contract keeps Free with the team after his future was in doubt in the past five weeks amid public comments from the team about ongoing contract talks. The Cowboys entertained signing veteran right tackles Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo and owner Jerry Jones said publicly "both sides have to give" in discussing Free's future.
A closer look at the Cowboys' picks:
Round 1/31 - Travis Frederick, C, 6-3, 312, Wisconsin
The Cowboys traded down from 18 to 31 after their top early targets were gone and used the pick for Frederick. He was projected to go in the second and as late as the third round. But the Cowboys were higher on him than most and felt he was their last best option to help them upgrade their offensive line. He should walk in and be the starter at center.
Round 2/47 - Gavin Escobar, TE, 6-5, 254, San Diego State
This was a surprise pick considering the Cowboys didn't have a need for a pass-catching tight end with seven-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten coming off the best season of his career. But Escobar was considered among the top three tight ends in the draft. He is a playmaker and will signal change to the two-tight end offense that New England employs. He needs to improve as a run blocker but will be a better red-zone target than Witten.
Round 3/74 - Terrence Williams, WR, 6-2, 210, Baylor
He is a big fast receiver who can stretch the field. Williams, a Dallas native, caught 97 passes for a nation-leading 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior last season. He had 34 catches of at least 20 yards and 16 that went at least 30. He didn't face much press coverage but he gives the Cowboys another big receiver to go along with Dez Bryant and gives them insurance for the oft-injured Miles Austin.
Round 3/80 - J.J. Wilcox, S, 6-0, 212, Georgia Southern
Upgrading safety was a huge focus coming into the draft because projected starters Barry Church and Matt Johnson are inexperienced and are both coming off injuries. The Cowboys feel better about Church because he is in his fourth year. Johnson didn't even practice as a rookie last year. Wilcox has the athletic ability to play either safety position but he has only played the position one year after switching from receiver as a senior. He has tremendous upside but he is raw.
Round 4/114 - B.W. Webb, CB, 5-10, 184, William and Mary
The Cowboys have three starting cornerbacks in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick. But you can't have too many players at the position and the Cowboys like what Webb brings to the table. He had 11 career interceptions and should be an immediate contributor on special teams.
Round 5/151 - Joseph Randle, RB, 6-0, 204, Oklahoma State
The Cowboys needed a running back because of the injury history of starter DeMarco Murray. They got great value with the productive Randle, who could be this year's version of Alfred Morris. Randle is a versatile back who can help with the running game as well as the pass. Randle rushed for 1,417 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011. He also started 31 of 39 games at Oklahoma State, was a valuable receiver, catching 108 balls for 917 yards and three touchdowns.
Round 6/185—DeVonte Holloman, LB, 6-1, 243, South Carolina
Holloman was very productive in college, starting 35 of 51 games at South Carolina, with 22 at strong safety and 13 at linebacker. He recorded 57 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions as a senior. Holloman has one black mark on his resume because of a DUI arrest in 2011. But he is a prototypical Sam linebacker and fills a need at the position for the Cowboys.
LB Anthony Spencer (tendered at $10.627 million; signed tender March 12).
CB Michael Coe was signed late in the season for depth purposes. Will not be re-signed.
OG Derrick Dockery will not be brought back.
SS Eric Frampton showed some good things at times; could return for depth purposes.
SS Charlie Peprah was signed late last season because of injuries. He had little impact and will not be brought back.
LB Brady Poppinga was signed late in the season because of injuries. He had little impact and will not be brought back.
(not tendered offers)
DE Brian Schaefering (not tendered as RFA) was signed late season for depth purposes because of injuries.
CB B.W. Webb (4/114): $2.603M/4 yrs, $443,380 SB.
RB Joseph Randle (5/151): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
LB DeVonte Holloman (6/185): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Anthony Armstrong: FA had been released by Cowboys; $630,000/1 yr.
C Phil Costa: Potential RFA; $2.7M/2 yrs, $450,000 SB/$950,000 guaranteed.
LS L.P. Ladouceur: Potential UFA; 5 yrs, $600,000 SB.
S Danny McCray: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; terms unknown.
LB Ernie Sims: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DE Anthony Spencer: FFA; $10.627M/1 yr.
S Will Allen: UFA Steelers; $905,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
LB Justin Durant: UFA Lions; $2.365M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.\
DL Anthony Hargrove: FA; terms unknown.
DT Nick Hayden: FA; terms unknown.
CB Brandon Underwood: FA; terms unknown.
LB Victor Butler: UFA Saints; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
DE Kenyon Coleman: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
LB Dan Connor (released).
CB Mike Jenkins: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
RB Felix Jones: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
LB Orie Lemon: Not tendered as ERFA/Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
P Brian Moorman: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
WR Kevin Ogletree: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
TE John Phillips: UFA Chargers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
S Gerald Sensabaugh (released).
DE Marcus Spears (released/post-June 1 designation).