Going into the draft, the Dallas Cowboys were still relatively thin at the inside linebacker position. The team decided not to tender offers to free agents Keith Brooking nor longtime Cowboys Bradie James, who had been part of the inside backer rotation for the last several years. They signed free agent Dan Connor away from the Carolina Panthers, but Connor has a storied injury history. Last season's second-round pick, Bruce Carter, for all his supposed athletic ability, remains a question mark as the team brought him along slowly his rookie season after suffering a serious knee injury his final year at North Carolina.
Dallas also had holdover youngster Orie Lemon at the position, but he received less than 20 snaps on the 2011 season.
So towrads the tail end of the draft, they selected Caleb McSurdy in the seventh round. They also chose to add small-school project Aston Whiteside out Abilene Christian University as an UDFA to the mix.
Whiteside played DE in college, but was originally recruited to play linebacker. He stands 6'2" and weighs 260 lbs, and has some pass-rushing ability that Dallas will look to add to their "multiplicity" defensive arsenal. For his career, he had 29.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and an outstanding six blocked kicks, which should help him earn some snaps on special teams; a unit he'll probably need to shine on to latch onto the team.
Whiteside doesn't have the best measurables (4.88 40, 33 inch vertical), which probably kept him from being selected in the draft. However, he seems to be willing to do what it takes to contribute to the Cowboys, now that he has an NFL team to call home.
"It is my ultimate dream," Whiteside said of the NFL. "I can play whatever they need me to play. I can play defensive end. I can play linebacker. Just give me a chance. That's all I want. I will give 110 percent effort into each game to show that I can play at the next level."