Many of us around Cowboys Nation had high hopes for Randy Gregory after the way he played in 2018, but unfortunately those hopes have now all but died thanks to his most recent suspension. To make matters worse, the Dallas Cowboys now have to find more depth at the defensive end position through either free agency or the draft. The former is what I want to focus on today.
Since the Cowboys are planning to pay a hefty price to extend DeMarcus Lawrence’s contract it’s doubtful they will pay out for one of the top tier DEs available on the open market. Instead, they will likely focus on the mid to lower tier players. Determining who might be on their radar though is nearly impossible, but familiarity with a certain player, however little, could be a giveaway.
Here are five potential Randy Gregory replacements who have ties to Dallas:
Here is a name Cowboys Nation should be pretty familiar with. Benson Mayowa was a member of the Dallas Cowboys for the 2016 and 2017 seasons before eventually getting buried on the depth chart in the final year of his contract. He was actually the sack leader (6 QB sacks) for the Cowboys in 2016 when DeMarcus Lawrence only managed to play nine games.
Mayowa could be exactly the kind of cost-effective free agent defensive end they are looking for to provide more depth at the position after Randy Gregory’s most recent suspension. He still has enough juice left to get after the QB. He managed to accumulate four quarterback sacks for the Arizona Cardinals last year, and accomplished that with very few opportunities behind Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.
Preston Smith is someone the Dallas Cowboys should be pretty familiar with in more ways than one. Not only has he played for their division rival, the Washington Redskins, for the past four years, but he was also a college teammate of Quarterback Dak Prescott’s at Mississippi State. That kind of familiarity could end up bringing the two sides together this offseason.
Smith might not be as cost-effective as Benson Mayowa, but we all know you get what you pay for. He has accumulated 24.5 QB sacks in his career and would definitely be an upgrade, even though he’s been an outside linebacker with the Redskins since entering the league. I personally believe he’s better suited to play in a 4-3 defense and has the size to do just that (6’5″, 265). There’s also the added bonus of weakening an opponent while also strengthening yourself.
Cowboys Nation has been hoping for over a year now Kris Richard’s ties to former Seattle Seahawks players would net the Dallas Cowboys Earl Thomas, but it could end up helping them replace Randy Gregory for the time being. Bruce Irvin was with the Seahawks the same time as Richard and that could help lure him to Dallas.
Irvin probably wouldn’t break the bank due to his age (31), which in itself could make him an attractive option for the Cowboys. But, you throw in the fact that he’s still more than capable of harassing opposing QBs and you’ve got yourself a player capable of making a difference on an already talented defense. He may just be a stopgap until Dallas finds a long-term solution, but he’s an intriguing option nonetheless.
This is a little outside the box thinking since Anthony Barr has been an outside linebacker in the Minnesota Vikings 4-3 defensive scheme, but it wasn’t that long ago Rod Marinelli was supposedly looking at him as a defensive end. If Marinelli still believes Barr is capable of putting his hand in the dirt as a DE, he could try to recruit him once again to the Dallas Cowboys.
Barr has the size (6’5″, 255) to play DE with the Cowboys, but no one really knows what he is capable of if asked to be a full-time pass rusher. It would seem like a risky move because of the unknown, but at worst he could be a situational pass rusher and the replacement at outside linebacker for Damien Wilson. I’d be willing to take the gamble. He does have 13.5 career QB sacks after all as an OLB, so it’s not that big of a stretch to think he could be successful as a DE.
Alex Okafor is a born and bred Texan who came right out of the heart of Dallas and could be looking to make his way home. He was a talented pass rusher with the Longhorns at the University of Texas and continued to be so in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals as an outside linebacker and once again with the New Orleans Saints as a defensive end. His versatility and productivity are definitely intriguing.
Okafor is yet another cost-effective option to replace Randy Gregory in Dallas. He’s averaged at least four QB sacks the last two years with the Saints as mostly a backup/role player, and could do the same with the Cowboys. He’s just 28 years old and should have more than enough left in the tank to contribute until a better option becomes available.