The Dallas Cowboys have had significant turnover on the defensive line this offseason. What will these changes mean for 9th-year veteran Tyrone Crawford, who is entering the final year of his contract in 2020?
One of the Cowboys' longest-tenured players at this point, Crawford has surprised many by lasting this long. He's had one of the team's worst contracts for the last five years; one of the team's most expensive defensive players without providing commensurate impact.
Tyrone has survived on a variety of factors. His versatility as a DE or DT has been the key, plus a good relationship with teammates and coaches. He's gotten by on being good enough on the field and a leader in the locker room, serving as a team captain for several seasons before 2019.
This value hasn't stopped Crawford from being targeted as a potential salary cap casualty for several offseason. Now in the final year of his deal, Tyrone costs $9.1 million against Dallas' cap and they would only have $1.1 million in dead money if he was cut.
Nevertheless, it's mid-May and Tyrone Crawford is still a Cowboy. And believe it or not, his job security may have actually increased.
The departures of Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins in free agency created big voids on the defensive line. The Cowboys handled the tackle shortage with big-name signings in Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, plus drafting Neville Gallimore in the 3rd Round of the 2020 Draft.
Defensive end hasn't received the same attention. The Cowboys are taking big risks by hoping in the reinstatements of Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith. And while they did get a 5th-round steal in rookie Bradlee Anae, expecting immediate contribution from any Day 3 pick is not smart team building.
At this point, Tyrone Crawford is the insurance policy against all of Dallas' rolls of the dice.
The question now is if the Cowboys might be willing to cancel that policy at final cuts. By the end of August we could have Gregory and Smith looking good, plus whatever prospects like Anae, Dorance Armstrong, and Joe Jackson are showing.
Could that be enough for Dallas to go ahead and cut Tyrone Crawford, or at least look for a trade partner?
You can get to 11 defensive linemen very quickly without Tyrone on the roster. I just listed five above, not to mention DeMarcus Lawrence. Then there are McCoy, Poe, Gallimore, Trysten Hill, and Antwaun Woods at defensive tackle.
If there's no other free agent out there that the Cowboys want then they don't need the cap savings from releasing Crawford at this time. But if they feel secure about their other players at final cuts, Dallas could be motivated to pocket those savings to rollover into the 2021 salary cap.
This 2020 training camp and preseason, assuming they happen at all, are set up to have intense competitions throughout the Cowboys' roster. The defensive line will be no different; veterans and young prospects waging war for three starting jobs (I think Lawrence might be safe) and playing time outside of them.
Tyrone Crawford comes into that fight with some real challenges. The cap savings work against him, as does this begin the last year of his contract. He doesn't project as someone who will help Dallas much in the compensatory pick formula, so keeping him for that reason isn't great incentive.
No, Crawford is going to have to be a standout on the practice field. He's also may need a few things to go his way with other players either not impressing or getting injured.
Honestly, the fact that we're still talking about Tyrone Crawford in 2020 is pretty shocking. But he keeps surviving by providing just enough value while other players haven't emerged.
That same recipe could earn him one more season with the Dallas Cowboys.