Cowboys' Jerry Jones explains whether Dallas will look to upgrade at NFL trade deadline

Dallas Cowboys team owner and general manager Jerry Jones discussed his approach to this year's NFL trade deadline on Tuesday. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

There’s no need to count the Dallas Cowboys out from possible movers at next week’s NFL trade deadline.

“I think we’ve got a team that’s a contender,” team owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday morning on Dallas radio station 105.3 The Fan. “I would really extend to improve our team right now.”

And yet, Jones’ definition of “extend” may diverge from that of fans. While the hybrid team owner/general manager of the 4-2 Cowboys could consider a move, he also insists he’s not going out searching for a player in the final days before the deadline.

“It’ll have to come our way,” Jones said. “The initiation of an opportunity to make a trade at this time that would help us principally has to start on the other end.

“​​That’s not showing a lack of aggressiveness. It’s just that’s where it starts. I like where we are with our personnel today. So I’m not thinking in any way that we need to upgrade our roster.”

Jones added that he’s “laying in wait, so to speak,” for that phone to ring.

If Jones’ sentiments about extending and waiting feel in conflict, welcome to the reality of how the Cowboys decision-maker often speaks. He wants fans to know that he feels good about his chances in the NFC — “We belong in the upper echelons,” he said Tuesday — while also guarding against feeling too good.

“I’m not gonna say we belong on the field with San Fran and we haven’t played Philly,” Jones said. “I’m anticipating Philadelphia being what they look like, so I don’t want to go that far. But we’re in the upper echelon.”

The Cowboys' defense began the season with frenetic turnover performances in blowouts against the New York Giants and New York Jets. The New England Patriots, too, could not evade the stingy Dallas D.

But a surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals highlighted questions about Dallas’ run defense and red-zone offense. A 42-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on “Sunday Night Football” in Week 5 triggered flashbacks to the past two postseasons, when the Niners eliminated the Cowboys each time.

The Cowboys made calculated offseason trades for veteran receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore secured the game-winning interception in Dallas’ most recent victory over the Los Angeles Chargers, filling a role the Cowboys needed even more sorely after losing star cornerback Trevon Diggs to a season-ending ACL tear.

Is Jones motivated to add firepower at cornerback, linebacker (starter Leighton Vander Esch is on injured reserve) or elsewhere?

“I have areas on this team that we could, if certain circumstances happen, that you might improve,” Jones said. “You know that your best chance to get it done is when it comes by you and you grab it. To go out and push it, the odds of getting it done at the price or the trade conditions that you would expect is dreaming.”

The Cowboys have splashed at the deadline in the not-too-distant past, trading a first-round draft pick to acquire Amari Cooper in 2018. In contrast, Dallas engaged with the Houston Texans last trade deadline about Cooks before ultimately returning to secure the deal with a lower salary cap hit in the spring.

Is Jones too risk-tolerant or too conservative? He said he won’t view any decision through that prism, even if his proudest moments in business have often accompanied risk. What Jones will confirm: The Cowboys are not in a rebuilding phase and will not trade away top talent, prioritizing the future over the chance they believe they have in a year when every NFL team had lost at least one game by Week 6.

“You have a lot of machinations that you’re working with every day,” Jones said. “Would I do something that would take away from this team so that it can help us in the future? Probably not.”