Owner/general manager Jerry Jones knows all too well that one of the top priorities this off-season is to improve the pass rush for their defense. Unfortunately, finding those dominant pass rushers that can take over games are difficult to come by. Which is why I decided to think a little bit outside of the box and find Jones one of those "war daddies" he is looking for. That is where the former New England Patriots linebacker, Dont'a Hightower comes in.
Before I dive into how I think Dont'a Hightower can help the Dallas Cowboys' pass rush, let me share with you what Jerry Jones recently said in an interview when asked about improving arguably the teams biggest off-season need.
"If I have a chance to bring one of these premier pass rusher, one of these war daddies that takes two to block, if I have a chance to get a player like that, I would," Jones told the radio station, via Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
"It's not a question of that. It's a question of, where is he? And who gives him up if he's a veteran, or where is he in the draft, or where is he anywhere. So, yeah we do need pressure. We're going to try to do something about it."
If we take Jerry Jones at his word, then finding a way to bring in a dominant pass rusher is at the top of the list this off-season. Unfortunately, we have already seen a lot of the best free agent defensive ends slapped with the franchise tag, essentially taking them off the market. That narrows down the Cowboys free agent options significantly.
Former Green Bay Packer, Nick Perry, has become the best available pass rusher on the market by default. But as such, the Cowboys might have to get into a bidding war to win his services. That is why I decided to think a little bit outside of the box and focus on a player that probably won't be linked to the Cowboys because of the position he has played so far in his NFL career, Dont'a Hightower.
Why Dont'a Hightower?
I know what a lot of you are probably thinking about right now. Why would the Dallas Cowboys bring in a player that has been a middle linebacker his first five years in the NFL to help with the pass rush?
The answer to that question is simple. I've always believed that Dont'a Hightower would be a fantastic pass rusher, which is exactly what the Dallas Cowboys are looking for.
Hightower has the size (6'3", 265) to be an every down defensive end in a 4-3 defensive scheme. Plus, he has already had success at the NFL level getting after the quarterback as a situational pass rusher, evidenced by his 17 career QB sacks. That's pretty impressive considering he plays the majority of his defensive snaps as a middle linebacker.
How would Hightower be utilize the best?
Dont'a Hightower's versatility to play several positions could be used in a number of different ways in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's scheme. We all know how much the Cowboys value position flexibility in their defensive players.
Since Jaylon Smith's 2017 status is still somewhat in the air, Hightower could be an insurance policy if things don't go as planned. Hightower would add some much-needed "meat" to the middle linebacker position for the Cowboys. The majority of the linebackers on the roster are probably better suited to play on the weak side, but Hightower would add a little extra thump in the middle due to his size.
The Cowboys would probably prefer to bring Smith along slowly, so Hightower could be the starter for the first couple of downs and then be moved to defensive end in obvious passing situations. That would allow Smith to use his athletic ability in the passing game, while also giving the defense someone who can get after the QB.
Sounds like a win-win situation right?
What is Hightower's market value compared to the top pass rusher?
According to Sportrac.com, Dont'a Hightower's market value is somewhere in the range of four-years, $40 million. That comes out to about $10 million per season. It may seem a little rich and more than the Dallas Cowboys have spent on signing free agents the past several seasons, but his position flexibility could make him well worth the money.
I mentioned earlier that Nick Perry is probably the top free agent pass rusher still available on the market. His market value according to Sportrac.com is somewhere in the range of five-years, $40 million. He would be a little bit more affordable at about $8 million per season, but he doesn't provide the same kind of position flexibility that Hightower does. Also, Perry hasn't really been as productive as a pass rusher as Hightower either.
Both players were selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. In their five years in the NFL, Hightower has 17 QB sacks, while Perry has just 23.5. Perry's numbers would be even less impressive if not for his 11 sack season in 2016.
Of course, all of this is just speculation. Dont'a Hightower would have to be willing to become more of a defensive end with the Cowboys instead of a middle linebacker. Sure, he would probably still play MLB, especially if Jaylon Smith isn't ready to go, but it would still be a position change of sorts. Although, he was kind of used in a similar fashion with the Patriots.
Then, the Cowboys would have to go against their free agent philosophy they adopted the past several years and sign a big name player to a big money contract. I'm not going to rule it out, but it seems unlikely. Although, this team is built to be serious contenders for the next several years, so if Jerry Jones and Company believes Dont'a Hightower is a player that can take them to a higher level, we could see this come to fruition.
Do you think Dont'a Hightower would make a good pass rusher?
Cowboys Offseason: Landon Collins Cleaned Out Locker, Set to be FA
It's no secret that the Dallas Cowboys are heading into the 2019 offseason looking to upgrade at the safety position on a defense that finished inside the top 10 in 2018. With much of the focus on Earl Thomas, New York Giants Safety Landon Collins has become the center of attention in the last couple of days.
Per a report by Josina Anderson, Collins cleaned out his locker on Wednesday as he gets ready to go into free agency for the first time.
I'm told that Giants S Landon Collins cleaned out his locker today at the team facility and said his goodbyes to teammates, coaches and trainers. It doesn't seem like Collins expects to be a Giant for much longer, per sources.
After Paul Schwartz attempted to assert that there was no claim to the report...
Attention those who care about the New York Giants: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Repeat: Landon Collins HAS NOT cleaned out his locker at the team facility. Go about your business and have a nice day.
And Landon Collins had this to say...
If cleaning out a locker is any kind of evidence, then Collins is prepared to hit the market when free agency opens on March 13th. He joins a loaded safety group that includes Thomas, Houston Texans Safety Tyrann Mathieu, Los Angeles Rams Safety LaMarcus Joyner, Glover Quin of the Detroit Lions, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix formerly of the Green Bay Packers, but most recently of the Washington Redskins, and several others who could find new homes this offseason.
The Cowboys are very familiar with Landon Collins, as they've seen him nearly twice a year over the last four years. The three time Pro Bowler was one of the best players on the Giants defense. They would line him up in the box and at time use him to cover Cole Beasley.
Collins ranked first in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus in run stop percentage at 7.2%. Meaning on running snaps, he made a tackle that rendered the running play ineffective 7.2% of the time.For further reference, Jeff Heath made a run stop on 4.2% of his run plays, which was 15th in the NFL among safeties.
The only positions to have more of an impact on the running game were linebackers and the defensive line. Even if you include linebackers, his run stop percentage was 31st in the NFL. Leighton Vander Esch led the Dallas Cowboys with a run stop percentage of 11.3%, which was third among linebackers. Collins number nearly matched the run stop percentage of Jaylon Smith at 7.6%.
Add Collins to a defense that stops the run as well as the Dallas Cowboys did last season and you take your team to another level against the run.
Landon Collins will probably get the most money this offseason. He's only 25 and has had success in the NFL. Many teams will be reaching out to Collins when free agency opens and the Dallas Cowboys should certainly be one of those teams. Collins would be an excellent addition to the Dallas Cowboys defense and would allow Xavier Woods to stay in his role as the free safety.
We're just under three weeks away from the start of NFL free agency and the drama will only get bigger as the Cowboys look to add to their team.
Report: Free Agent DL David Irving Not in Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 Plans
The Dallas Cowboys and troubled Defensive Lineman David Irving appear to be at an impasse. According to a report from David Moore of the Dallas Morning News, the team has "no intention" of trying to re-sign Irving and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent.
Irving started the 2018 season with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He only appeared in two games after that, registering one sack and four tackles.
Source: Cowboys have no intention of keeping DT David Irving at this time https://t.co/vqMNZty6Aq via @sportsdaydfw
Despite reports of David's ongoing issues with an ankle injury, Dallas never placed him on injured reserve. Then came the reports that Irving was missing practices and team meetings while dealing with personal issues related to the custody of his daughter.
The team stayed pretty mum on the subject of Irving's status throughout the year, falling back on the ankle injury when pushed. But after months, it became clear that either David, the team, or both parties were disinterested in his return to football.
The Cowboys had high hopes after 2017, when Irving posted seven sacks in just eight games. They placed a second-round tender on him last offseason as a restricted free agent and were surely ready to give him a long-term deal if he'd built on that success.
But David's issues, physical or otherwise, have clearly done the opposite.
Dallas is known for working with troubled players, as we've recently seen with Randy Gregory. That they're closing the book on Irving suggests there's an issue with his desire towards football.
It's a sad loss for both. David's potential is enormous, as evidenced by his productivity when he actually does play. But he appears more likely to hit the Commissioner's exempt list in 2019 than the football field, given the reports of multiple failed drug tests over the last year.
Hopefully David Irving can turn things around one day and capitalize on his talent. But if it ever happens, it appears that it won't be with the Dallas Cowboys.
BREAKING: WR Terrance Williams Gets Dropped by Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys have ended their six-year relationship with Wide Receiver Terrance Williams. According to multiple sources, they have declined a team option on Williams' contract and he will now be an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
The move will reportedly save the Cowboys $2.25 million in salary space this year.
Williams was the team's third-round pick in 2013 and started 68 of the 83 games he played in. He developed into a solid number-two receiver by the end of his rookie deal in 2016 and was given a new four-year contract that offseason.
Terrance Williams career w/ the Cowboys is done. Sources say the club has declined the WR's option for 2019, making him a free agent. The move is no surprise. He caught just 2 passes for 18 yards last season. His departure frees up $2.25 million on the cap.
After another decent year in 2017, things took a bad turn for Terrance last season. It started with an offseason arrest for public intoxication that eventually led to a three-game suspension, although Williams served that while on injured reserve.
The Cowboys already appeared to be giving Williams' spot away when they made several offseason acquisitions at WR; Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, and Tavon Austin all were brought in even before Terrance's arrest.
While Williams did start in two of Dallas' first three games in 2018, he only had three passes his thrown his way. The team finally put him on IR due to ongoing complications with a surgically-repaired foot.
While it didn't end well, Terrance Williams' time in Dallas was ultimately a solid return for a third-round pick. He made a few big plays and was a proficient run-blocker, good enough to start in almost 75% of the team's games since he was drafted.
The Cowboys now hope that another third-round pick, Michael Gallup in 2018, will do bigger and better things.
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