Well, all the big name defensive line talent seems to be gone. While I’m not happy about that, I think the Cowboys deserve the credit from us to believe they have a plan here.
Obviously defensive line is the major priority right now, but talent at other positions in free agency is greater right now so I will talk about both.
When it comes to defensive line attention must now turn to creative waves. There is no premiere rusher left that will get you in the teens of sacks. Instead, the Cowboys can look to add several talents that fit the bill to give teams a long list of players to have to game plan for.
Nick Perry is my favorite defensive lineman left. Behind him you have Robert Ayers, but it seems as if he will be signed elsewhere shortly. Behind that you have guys like Chris Long, O’Brien Schofield, Jeremy Mincey, Quinton Coples, George Selvie, Bjoern Werner, Aldon Smith and Junior Galette.
If the Cowboys want to put together even a decent defensive line they have to sign at least one of these players.
Keep in mind these are all defensive ends. The NFL Draft has tons of defensive tackle talent. Cedric Thornton is meeting with the Cowboys today and would be a nice Nick Hayden improvement as a 1-technique. Thornton would be able to use his strength to control the running game and hold blocks to free up Tyrone Crawford. It is at defensive end where the draft is barren, so I put a premium on that position in free agency.
Nick Perry is only 25 years old and a former first round pick by the Green Bay Packers. He has been productive, but may be a little undersized for a 4-3 defensive end. Regardless, he has experience at the position from college and could be a nice get for the Cowboys.
Aldon Smith would be a nice grab as well that is a little under the radar. Smith was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL before his off-the-field concerns clouded his talent. Smith received a one year ban in November of 2015, so he won’t be eligible until then, but he should be had for close to nothing and would be some late season reinforcement. He’d also come without the PR nightmare that Hardy would come with.
The Cowboys will almost definitely add a rookie into that mix and David Irving will probably also get more defensive end snaps. Expect Ryan Russell to be a bigger name this year as well.
Where the Cowboys can actually add some impact is in the secondary.
You start with Eric Weddle who’s name is starting to gain a little traction with the Cowboys.
Weddle was one of the game’s premier defensive talents in the not too distant future. A poor 2015 season by his standards plus his age have some down on him.
I think Weddle would make a lot of sense in Dallas. He is the consummate professional football player. He eats and sleeps football and gets it mentally better than most do.
You can play Weddle at safety with Byron Jones and if Jalen Ramsey is available at 4 and should be the pick, can do so with Ramsey as well. This would give you the ability to get creative.
Weddle can play solo-safety with Jones and Ramsey walking down to corner. Weddle can play with Jones or Ramsey at safety. You can mix it up all game long.
The most important part is while you get a couple good years from Weddle, you also get him to help Jones and potentially Ramsey to become great safeties as well.
The same idea from a technical standpoint could be said for Tony Jefferson instead of Eric Weddle. Jefferson plays a great strong safety and would make for a good player to compliment Byron Jones or potentially Jalen Ramsey at safety.
Then there is Walter Thurmond who basically gives you another player in the Byron Jones and Jalen Ramsey mold, though much less athletic. Thurmond can play a real serious safety but also has experience at cornerback. This would allow the Cowboys to get even more creative.
There are plenty of options remaining at cornerback if the Cowboys do want someone there.
Between Morris Claiborne, Casey Heyward, Prince Amukamara, Patrick Robinson and Brandon Boykin, there are definitely options.
Nolan Carroll is visiting the Cowboys today and fits the bill of what they’re looking for in a cornerback. He is tall and long and for the most part has had good health. Carroll was putting together a nice 2015 for the Eagles before suffering a season ending ankle injury.
There are plenty of options left for the Dallas Cowboys to have put together a nice offseason. I know many are upset about what they have done, but it is a good thing that they are not shelling out tons of money for some of these players. The staff has shown the ability to find players who fit what they’re looking for late in free agency and the coaching staff has proven the ability to get production out of these players.
The Cowboys cap situation is clear right now, but it can be extremely healthy in the coming years. By not overpaying good players, they will be able to re-sign some of these offensive linemen and could be in the position to land great players in the future.
There are still talented players left and the Cowboys should be able to get some real bargains. This isn’t over yet, so don’t panic!
Think back to 2014. The year the Cowboys went 12-4 and won a Playoff game. Believe in them. They deserve it.