Losing Anthony Hitchens to the Kansas City Chiefs is quite a blow to the linebacker depth for the Dallas Cowboys. During his time in Dallas, Hitchens was pretty much invaluable due to his ability to step in and play whatever LB position was needed in the Cowboys 4-3 defense. Unfortunately, the Cowboys will no longer have that “safety valve” at their disposable any longer.
The Dallas Cowboys were very open about trying to retain Anthony Hitchens, but they knew he would likely end up out of their price range in free agency. But, I don't know if anyone could've foreseen Hitchens receiving $9 million per season. There is no way the Cowboys could have kept him at that price.
Hitchens' departure might not seem like a big deal on the surface, but if you dig a little deeper, you will discover that it creates a huge hole that needs to be filled at the Cowboys linebacker position. Let me show you what I mean…
Here is the Dallas Cowboys current depth chart at LB:
MIKE: Jaylon Smith
WILL: Sean Lee
SAM: Damien Wilson
Backups: Justin March-Lillard, Tre'von Johnson
As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys have to be a little bit concerned with their depth at the linebacker position heading into the 2018 season. Yes, it looks as if they have their starters in place with Smith, Lee, and Wilson, but the cupboard is pretty bare behind them.
That's where Anthony Hitchens was so invaluable. He could step in and play any three of the LB positions, and do it at a high level without there being much of a drop off. The Cowboys no longer have that kind of “safety valve” on the roster.
Anthony Hitchens' departure via free agency definitely increases the need to address the depth at the linebacker position for the Dallas Cowboys. In fact, they would be wise to use both free agency and the draft to secure some much-needed depth.
There are a few free-agent linebackers out there who would fit into their “bargain shopping” mentality who could come in and provide much-needed depth. Luckily, this is also a pretty talented LB draft class. It wouldn't be a total surprise if they decided to double dip at the position.
Depth is the biggest concern here. The Dallas Cowboys don't necessarily need starters with Smith, Lee, and Wilson still on the roster, but they absolutely have to keep the future of the position in mind.
We all know Sean Lee has trouble staying healthy, which means it might be time to find his eventual replacement. Damien Wilson will also be moving on shortly. Then, despite his improved health, there are still concerns about Jaylon Smith's long-term health/future.
Anthony Hitchens will surely be missed, but the Dallas Cowboys surely had a contingency plan in place. It will be interesting to see how they go about replacing their “safety valve”.