On any ranking list of the Cowboys' 2022 free agents, Defensive End Randy Gregory is at or near the very top. But Dorance Armstrong, while not as notable, is coming off his own very impressive 2021 season. Could re-signing Armstrong over Gregory actually be the best move for Dallas?
In no way are we knocking Gregory, arguably Dallas' third-best defensive player behind Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs last season. But Randy is heading into free agency with momentum and talk that he could even see the franchise tag from the Cowboys. This creates salary cap issues for Dallas.
Earlier this month, another of our writers discussed Dorance Armstrong's merit for a new contract. But could the Cowboys even go so far as viewing Dorance as an acceptable replacement for Randy Gregory?
Armstrong's name isn't nearly as big but his production wasn't that far off. Check out the stats for both players:
- Armstrong – 13 games, five sacks, 10 hurries
- Gregory – 12 games, six sacks, 12 hurries
Sure, Gregory did a little more and in one fewer game. But you also have to consider how they were used in specific schemes. According to Pro Football Reference, Dorance was only used on three QB blitzes while Randy blitzed 12 times in 2021.
In general, Gregory was a featured player that Dan Quinn was scheming to get some of the best chances at attacking quarterbacks. Armstrong was more of a rotation guy; certainly a pass rusher but not given some of the same looks and opportunities as Randy.
Also, by the time next season starts, Dorance will be just 25 while Randy turns 30 in November. Although Gregory's history with suspensions has reduced his NFL mileage through the years, this is still a major age gap to consider.
The biggest consideration here, though, is the money. Gregory is among the top DE options in 2022 free agency and projected to get around $12-$13 million annually in a new deal. If Dallas tries to keep him with the franchise tag, that number skyrockets to around $20 million for next year.
The market for Armstrong, a relative unknown, shouldn't be too competitive. But he proved last year that he can make impact plays and could perhaps increase production with a more featured role on defense.
Depending on other suitors or a lack thereof for Dorance in free agency, Dallas could potentially get him back at a steal. And while he may not be quite as dynamic athletically as Gregory, Armstrong could potentially make up for a lot of what Dallas would be losing at a fraction of the cost.
With wide receiver, linebacker, safety, and other positions begging for attention this offseason just as badly as defensive end, the Cowboys can't afford premium talent at all of them. They have to pick their spots for fiscally-sound decisions and Dorance Armstrong may present them with one of their better opportunities to save cap space without taking a heavy hit on the field.