There was a lot of excitement around the Cowboys’ free agent additions of Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe this offseason. But it’s only mid-October and already McCoy is no longer with the team and Poe is looking like a free agent flop. If something doesn’t change soon for Dontari, he may not see the second year of his contract with Dallas.
After years of band-aids and failed experiments at defensive tackle, here were two multi-time Pro Bowlers coming in to beef up the line. But McCoy’s already gone after a season-ending injury and Poe is struggling to make an impact. The Cowboys defense is currently 5th-worst against the run in 2020.
Dontari is coming his own season-ending injury; a torn quad suffered last November while with the Carolina Panthers. That could be a contributing factor in the lack of early returns.
Also, like the rest of the Cowboys defense, Poe is having to adjust to a new defensive scheme under Mike Nolan as coordinator. But unlike some of his Dallas teammates, Dontari has already played in a 3-4 defense during his early years with Kansas City.
Those were the years that Poe earned his way to two Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014.
It’s not like anyone expects Dontari be a double-digit sack artist from the DT position. What the Cowboys really wanted was a true space-eating tackle to help bolster the run defense, but we’ve seen the big man getting handled by run blockers and the stats speak for themselves.
In five games Poe has just seven tackles and zero sacks. None of his tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage.
If something doesn’t change soon, the Cowboys can easily find a better use for the salary cap space that Dontari Poe would eat up in 2021.
Dallas wisely structured Poe’s deal so that they wouldn’t be heavily penalized in the second year. Dontari has a scheduled cap hit of $4.75 million but the Cowboys could save nearly all of it, $4 million flat, if they release him next offseason.
Clearly, Poe is going to have start being more than just a large defensive tackle if he wants to stick around. While $4 million isn’t a huge amount for a DT it’s definitely more than Dallas will pay for sheer size. They can find plenty of guys for a fraction of that amount to provide what Dontari has over these last five games.
No, Dontari Poe has to be more than that. While expecting a Pro Bowl performance may be beyond him at this point, he simply needs to start making a tangible positive impact on the field. And with all the injuries current undermining the Cowboys defense, his veteran experience and leadership should be part of the package.
Poe is hardly the only Dallas defender struggling right now. But given that he’s still just 30 years old and what he’s accomplished in the NFL already, Dontari needs to become part of the solution fast. Otherwise, the Cowboys will have to cut bait and solve the problem with some new players next year.