Though they were relatively quiet in free agency this year the Cowboys did make a significant move at defensive tackle. Dallas chose not to re-sign Nick Hayden, who'd started all but one game over the last three years, and instead brought in fifth-year veteran Cedric Thornton from Philadelphia.
Coming into the league undrafted, Thornton spent most 2011 on the practice squad. He became a regular reserve in 2012 as a backup defensive tackle. In 2013, the Eagles switched to the 3-4 scheme and Thornton emerged as a starting defensive end.
As Dallas fans know from our time with the 3-4 defense, Thornton's performance doesn't show up much in stats. He only had one sack in each of the last three years but that hasn't been his focus. As a 3-4 end, Thornton's job has been to occupy blockers to allow guys like Trent Cole, Brandon Graham, and Connor Barwin to attack the quarterback. He has been the Marcus Spears of their scheme.
Dallas thought enough of Thornton's work to give him a four-year, $17 million contract last March. That pays him a Top-15 salary for defensive tackles despite the lack of production on the stat sheet.
The Cowboys clearly believe that Thornton can thrive in their scheme. They could have made the safe and less expensive choice by bringing back Hayden but see this as an upgrade. Remember that Dallas play the Eagles twice every season, so they've spent plenty of time watching Thornton on tape.
One reason the Cowboys like Thornton is perceived versatility. Jason Garrett said the following shortly after Thornton was signed:
“We definitely see him as an interior player, but again in their scheme he’s played all along their defensive line... You see him play as a zero nose. You see him play as a shade nose. You see him play as a three [technique]. You see him play as an end in their 3-4 alignment. He’s been a guy who has a number of different things.”
Nick Hayden was never versatile. He was a true one-technique tackle with little to offer as a pass rusher. Dallas believes that Thornton can be used in more ways and perhaps even replace Tyrone Crawford if needed. Rod Marinelli loves versatility in players, as do all coaches, as it allows them to make optimal packages that maximize everyone's strengths.
If team are focused on on Crawford and DeMarcus Lawrence as pass rushers then Thornton could see more one-on-one opportunities, especially if he's playing in the nickel package. I would expect for him to improve on his one-sack average.
The term "breakout" is relative depending on where a player already is and the role they play. For a guy like Thornton it means living up to being paid as one of the 15 best defensive tackle in the game. It means being a consistent starter who makes a visible impact on games far more than Nick Hayden did.
Based on the contract and the break from their recent status as offseason misers, Dallas clearly believes in Thornton's potential.
BREAKING: Dallas Cowboys Sign Free Agent Safety George Iloka
The Dallas Cowboys have reached a one-year agreement with Safety George Iloka, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Iloka spent 2018 with the Vikings after six years with the Bengals.
He's started 79 of his 99 career games since being a fifth-round pick by Cincinnati in 2012. Iloka turns 29 years old next week.
The Cowboys have agreed to a one-year deal with safety George Iloka, according to a source. Iloka met with the Cowboys on Friday and was the third safety to meet with the club during the week along with Clayton Geathers and Eric Berry. The Cowboys have... https://t.co/JB5nJLWepc
This isn't the safety that most Cowboys fans wanted. After over a year of pining for Earl Thomas, sights turned to Eric Berry after his free agent visit in Dallas last week.
However, it makes sense that Iloka would be attractive to the Cowboys. At 6'4" and 225 lbs, he fits the physical mold of what Defensive Backs Coach Kris Richard likes in his players. He also is younger than Berry and Thomas without the same recent injury issues.
Iloka becomes one of many Boise St. products on Dallas' roster, joining Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence, Leighton Vander Esch, and others. He entered the league with college teammates Crawford and Kellen Moore, the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator, in 2012.
We'll have to wait and see how George Iloka fits into the current mix at safety with Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods. He spent most of 2018 as a backup with Minnesota, but Dallas will likely give him a chance to start.
BREAKING: Cowboys Sign Ex-Packers WR Randall Cobb
According to multiple sources, the Dallas Cowboys have signed former Green Bay Packers Wide Receiver Randall Cobb to a one-year deal to help bolster their depth at the WR position and potentially become Cole Beasley's replacement.
Cowboys are giving former Packers' WR Randall Cobb a one-year, $5 million deal, per source. https://t.co/8KWFPjSP8T
The Dallas Cowboys met with Randall Cobb earlier this week, but he eventually left Dallas without a contract. He must've had a change of heart or just needed time to ponder the Cowboys offer, but regardless of what transpired in that short time he is now part of America's Team.
During his time with the Packers, Cobb accumulated 470 receptions for 5,524 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. The eight-year veteran will now be expected to replace some of Cole Beasley's production out of the slot for the Dallas Cowboys.
After years of watching Beasley as the Cowboys slot WR, it will be really interesting to see Randall Cobb in that role. He's not as quick twitched as No. 11, but can be just as dangerous due to his ability to be more of a down the field receiver. He also brings added value in the return game and could compete with Tavon Austin to become the return specialist.
This could mean the Cowboys forgo drafting a wide receiver early in the 2019 NFL Draft, but I wouldn't put it past them. Regardless of what happens, this is an excellent addition.
Welcome to Cowboys Nation Randall Cobb!
REPORT: Dallas Cowboys Re-sign Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur
L.P. Ladouceur is returning for his 15th season as the Cowboys' long snapper. The veteran free agent was re-signed by Dalals today to a one-year deal.
Thanks to Jason Witten's one-year sabbatical with Monday Night Football, Ladouceur has now been with the Cowboys for more consecutive seasons than any current player. He just turned 38 last week, but Louis-Philippe remains one of the top long snappers in football.
The Cowboys have signed long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur to a one-year deal worth $1.03 million and $90,000 in bonus money, but he will count $735,000 against the cap. This will be Ladouceur's 15th season with the Cowboys, tying Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Mark... https://t.co/2iDsi6RX7e
Retaining Ladouceur is an underrated move for the Cowboys given their situation at kicker.
Brett Maher was only 80% accurate overall on field goals last year. The team could be considering an upgrade in free agency.
Whether they bring Maher back or try someone new, having a long snapper with Ladouceur's performance perfection will make things much easier for them.
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