The Cowboys have seen some significant turnover at defensive end during this 2021 offseason. Today we’ll continue our “Better or Worse” review series and discuss how the needle moved for the DE position with the various comings and goings.
Dallas said goodbye to one of their high-profile defenders when Aldon Smith signed a free agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks. They also lost longtime leader Tyrone Crawford, who’d primarily played DE for the team the last few years, to early retirement.
Thankfully, still having DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on the roster mitigates some of the pain. Tank is one of the best in the game and Gregory was outplaying Aldon Smith by the end of 2020. They have the two starting positions locked down for next season.
That said, depth is the concern as two experienced veterans have now departed. What did the Cowboys do this offseason to replace them?
2021 Offseason Movement at DE
The first move came in March with a free agent signing; 5th-year veteran Tarell Basham. After being a 3rd-round pick by the Colts in 2017, Basham wound up with the Jets a year later and spent his last three seasons as an EDGE defender for New York.
Basham got plenty of playing time last year with nine starts and appearances on 64% of the Jets’ total defensive snaps. Though he only had 3.5 sacks in 2020, Tarell added 13 QB hits and three forced fumbles to his stat sheet.
Dallas must think Basham has potential in their scheme after giving him a two-year deal with $3.75 million in guaranteed money. Considering the meager one-year contracts they were handing out to most free agents in 2021, Basham’s suggests some extra interest and belief in his ability.
Additionally, the Cowboys spent a 3rd-round pick this year on Iowa DE Chauncey Golston. With the athleticism to play DE and the size to potentially move inside on passing downs, especially after adding some weight, Golston could fill that Tyrone Crawford void nicely.
The rest of the depth chart is currently made up of carryover talent like Dorance Armstrong, Bradlee Anae, and Ron’Dell Carter. Where and if these players fit into Dan Quinn’s plans is hard to say currently.
You can hope for some second-year growth out of Anae and Carter, or a contract-year boom from Armstrong, but hope are all those are. And honestly, there’s little more reason to expect Basham and Golston to just walk in and replace Smith and Crawford.
Everything with the group is a matter of hope right now; hope in Quinn’s arrival as defensive coordinator to get more out of the talent and hope that the talent will develop and perform with more opportunity. Even Randy Gregory, now being counted on like never before, has a lot to prove in 2021.
I’m excited for the potential but something has to be seen before we can be certain. For now, based on the known commodities we lost and the unproven nature of their replacements, we have to be a little worried.