The Dallas Cowboys have several key defenders among the 2018 free agent pool. One of them is linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who has started the majority of games since he entered the league four years ago. Will he be playing for a new team next season?
After DeMarcus Lawrence got the franchise tag and David Irving gets his likely restricted free agent tender, Hitchens is the biggest name among the remaining free agents. He has been solid going back to his rookie season, when he had to start 11 games due to injuries and other issues with Sean Lee and Rolando McClain.
His rookie deal now expired, and one that only paid him $3.76 million over his career so far, Anthony Hitchens is certainly looking to get paid. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that a big contract will come from the Cowboys.
Hitchens is not a standout in coverage, which limits his appeal as an every-down linebacker and a guy you want to pay big money. The Cowboys already have a lot tied up in Sean Lee and are hoping Jaylon Smith will take on a larger role next year. They also have Damien Wilson back for at least one more season, which should fill out their starting lineup.
This isn't to say that Dallas wouldn't like to have Hitchens back. He's reliable and can play all three spots. But the Cowboys are too cap-strapped to give him what he's earned and what he can probably get from the open market.
One likely scenario where Anthony leaves Dallas is thanks to his former linebackers coach, Matt Eberflus, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. The connection is already being made between the two by those who cover the Colts, and a signing is already expected by many.
With Eberflus expected to move the Colts to a 4-3 scheme, bringing in a middle linebacker who knows your system and can help teammates learn makes a lot of sense. It also helps that Hitchens will still be just 26 when the season starts.
While he's never put up gaudy stats with the Cowboys, Anthony has also always been in the shadow of Sean Lee and three years of Barry Church. There are only so many tackles to go around. Nobody knows this better than his former position coach.
Of course, the Hitchens-Colts scenario is just speculation at this point. Hitchens is an Ohio native and might like to go to Cincinnati or Cleveland if offered. There are plenty of other franchises who could use a solid starting linebacker, too.
If Hitchens doesn't find a new home in free agency, it's entirely plausible that he would come back to Dallas. The Cowboys would then have all the leverage and could get him on a bargain.
However, it certainly looks like there will be a market for Anthony Hitchens when activity begins next week. Barring a surprise, his future is elsewhere.