If you take a look at the current state of the Dallas Cowboys depth chart, you can't help but notice the gaping hole in the middle of the defensive line. Of all the position groups it's the biggest area of concern for the Cowboys with just under a month until free agency starts.
Not long ago, I explored potential options in free agency for the Dallas Cowboys to pursue at the defensive tackle position. With news coming down yesterday that the Detroit Lions released Damon “Snacks” Harrison, add one more name to the list that the Cowboys should take a run at in free agency.
There are few players who have been as impactful in the interior of a defense as Harrison has been throughout his career. Though he'd argue 2019 was a down year, among players who played at least 74 run snaps, Harrison was 18th in the NFL in run-stop percentage per Pro Football Focus. From 2013 to 2018, “Snacks” never finished lower than fourth in the NFL. He's arguably been the best run-defending defensive tackle over the last decade in the NFL.
Damon Harrison is 31, which would generally be a concern when targeting a free agent, but he's been one of the most durable players in his time in the NFL. In 2019 he missed one game. That was the first time he wasn't available for a game since his rookie season.
The Dallas Cowboys have struggled to consistently stop the run over the last several years and Harrison could be the answer to the issues that have plagued them in the middle of the defense. With major investments in linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, finding defensive tackles who can plug up the middle and keep blockers from getting to the second level needs to be a priority. Despite his age, there's no player on the market that can make the kind of impact in the run game that Damon Harrison can.
From 2015 to 2018, Harrison led all defensive tackles in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' “stops,” which is a play that results in a loss for the offense.
Currently, the Cowboys are returning just two defensive tackles who played any snaps of significance in Trysten Hill and Tyrone Crawford. It's likely that restricted free agent Antwaun Woods will be back with the team unless someone signs him to an offer sheet the Cowboys aren't interested in matching.
Though Antwaun Woods will likely be back, Harrison would be a massive upgrade in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line. His leadership, experience, and heart are the intangibles this defense sorely needs moving forward.
Though he was scheduled to make $8.5 million in 2020 with the Lions, it's possible that he'd be willing to take less to join a team that will contend in 2020.
The Cowboys need to retool their defense and find some areas they can improve like at defensive tackle and Damon Harrison is just the player who can help improve their run game tremendously.