If you looks up a list of the Dallas Cowboys free agents in 2018, defensive tackle Stephen Paea is among them. However, Paea’s situation isn’t quite like the other players entering the market this offseason.
In October, Paea informed the Cowboys that he would be retiring from football. This came as a surprise after Stephen had started the team’s first four games of 2017, appearing to be a solid replacement after losing Terrell McClain. But a knee injury soon took him off the field and eventually led to the impromptu announcement.
Officially, Stephen Paea has not filed paperwork with the NFL to retire. The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve and that’s how he finished the season. As such, he could still potentially play for someone next season if he’s had a change of heart.
Dallas has signed Paea to just a one-year deal last season, knowing they would need some depth after losing McClain in free agency. Paea’s familiarity with Rod Marinelli from working with him in Chicago helped the veteran to move into the starting lineup for Week One.
Although he turns 30 in May, Paea could still be a solid rotation player if he’s fully recovered from his knee injury. Perhaps he had a change of heart about retiring, and perhaps the Cowboys would still like to do business with him.
Dallas could have need for some defensive line help with other possible departures. David Irving is a restricted free agent, and though the Cowboys will likely try to keep him there’s always potential someone might try to sign him away. We could also see veteran Tyrone Crawford released to help clear cap space.
If he were to return, Stephen Paea would not doubt have to take the veteran minimum after last year’s disappointment. It wouldn’t be much more than $1 million, which would be a potential bargain if he’s really ready to play.
Of course, retirement could still be the plan and it’s just a matter of doing the paperwork.
Either way, it’s unlikely that Dallas would bring Paea back after last season. There are younger guys out there, and many project that the Cowboys could spend as high as their first-round pick on a defensive tackle.
Barring a surprise, those four starts in 2017 are probably all we’ll see of Stephen Paea in a Cowboys uniform.