No matter what else happens this offseason, we know that one of Dallas' starting defensive ends in 2016 will be third-year stud DeMarcus Lawrence. After posting seven sacks in his last eight games of 2015, all expectations are that Lawrence will be at least a double-digit sack artist and perhaps make his first Pro Bowl.
I hope you feel really, really good about Lawrence. Because after him, things at defensive end go right off a cliff.
Last year's core group of Greg Hardy, Jeremy Mincey, and Jack Crawford are all still free agents. Randy Gregory will be suspended for the first four games of next season. That leaves just one player, second-year lineman Ryan Russell, as the only other defensive end to play Week One.
Russell played in one game for Dallas last year. He didn't register a sack or even a tackle. His stat line for 2015 only says "one appearance." That makes him the football equivalent of a movie director's nephew who got to be "Customer #4" in the background of a restaurant scene.
Clearly, the Cowboys are in a precarious spot with their defensive ends. They can't rely on the draft alone to fill the holes. Even if they added two or three rookies, they are still rookies. It's rare that a rookie pass rusher realizes his potential in his first year. Often they need physical development on top of technique refinement before they're ready to excel as professionals.
What's Left in Free Agency?
Let this sink in. One popular site, WalterFootball.com, has the remaining defensive end talent ranked. Of the top five still unsigned, three are names we know very well: Hardy, Mincey, and George Selvie. The other two are Jason Jones (Lions) and Wallace Gilberry (Bengals), ages 30 and 31 respectively.
That list doesn't include guys who've been playing as 3-4 outside linebackers who would be defensive ends in our scheme. They include veterans like Kroy Biermann, Lamarr Woodley, and O'Brien Schofield. The downside here is that asking an older guy to become a down lineman is the reverse of what tends to happen; older guys moving to the 3-4 to limit contract and prolong their careers.
Take all of this in and there's no question that Greg Hardy is, by far, the most talented and high-upside option left in free agency. However, all signs are that he burned his bridges in Dallas with his conduct and a soured relationship with Jason Garrett.
There have been rumors that Hardy was openly disrespectful and undermining of Garrett in the locker room, which makes sense when you saw how coldly Garrett announced that "Greg Hardy is a free agent" a few weeks back. There is no reason to think, at any level of desperation, Dallas is going to bring him back.
Dallas will surely add some veterans before the draft. Mincey could return and Jack Crawford, though listed as a defensive tackle, has the flexibility to play end if he's brought back. We also know that Tyrone Crawford could play outside if needed, though that would be far from ideal.
Are the Cowboys painting themselves into a corner with the need for defensive ends? When they're on the clock with that fourth-overall pick, will they feel forced to take Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner regardless of who might be higher on their board? That is the big concern right now.
I don't love Bosa, Buckner, or any other DE prospect with that high pick. I'd much rather see them use it on defensive back Jalen Ramsey, if he's available. If not Ramsey then perhaps it's time to get the quarterback you love or to take running back Ezekiel Elliott, arguably the best talent in the entire draft. However it shakes out, I just loathe the idea of letting superior talent pass you by at other positions in the name of filling a need.
Unfortunately, we may be headed to that very situation. You can't completely dismiss need in the draft and wind up struggling all of next year because you're so thin at defensive end. Even if Lawrence is about to into Reggie White reincarnate, he could still get hurt. Gregory is one toke away from a year-long suspension. This could turn into a disaster very quickly without some more options.
What... do I sound nervous?
You bet I am.
Free Agent WR Allen Hurns Plans to Sign With Cowboys
It looks as if the Dallas Cowboys will be adding yet another wide receiver through free agency. According to sources, Allen Hurns plans on signing with the Cowboys.
WR Allen Hurns just told me, "I'm going to sign with Dallas." #Cowboys
This is a move that seemed unlikely after the Cowboys signed Deonte Thompson a few days ago, but I know a lot of Cowboys Nation will be excited about this transaction.
While this move is exciting, it does create more confusion for the Cowboys and their wide receivers. It's difficult to imagine all of these WRs sticking to the roster, which means there will be some tough decisions that need to be made.
What will the Cowboys do with Dez Bryant?
Will Cole Beasley be cut or traded?
Are the Cowboys comfortable absorbing Terrance Williams' cap hit if traded or released?
Will this keep the Cowboys from drafting a WR early?
All of these questions and more will have to be answered eventually. But, one thing is for sure, things are definitely about to get interesting.
Of course, there is a bonus here for the Dallas Cowboys. Since Allen Hurns was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he doesn't count against the Cowboys compensatory picks next season.
Please stay tuned and we will continue to keep you updated on contract details and any other news involving Allen Hurns as it becomes available.
What do you think about the Allen Hurns signing?
What Signing Thompson Means for Hurns and Cowboys WR Position
UPDATE: News of Hurns saying he will sign with the Cowboys broke as this article went live.
Free Agency began a bit late for the Dallas Cowboys, but they've already done enough to get fans discussing about the latest additions to the roster. Adding help on offense, defense and special teams in form of tier-2 free agents may not be what Cowboys Nation wants to see, but I'm certain they wouldn't have enjoyed giving Sammy Watkins a three-year $48M contract, either.
However, the Cowboys are clearly in the wide receiver market after an offensively disappointing season. They have quite a few of this year's class of wide receivers prospects scheduled to visit Dallas, and they've hosted some WR free agents as well.
This week, they even signed one.
Deonte Thompson, who started seven games for the Bills last year, is coming to Dallas on a one-year $2.5M contract. The 29-year old could be the burner receiver this offense is missing and could end up being an improved version of Brice Butler for the Cowboys in 2018.
He hasn't had a great career but last season was his best year so far. Starting three games for the Bears and seven for the Bills, Thompson was able to rack up a career-high 555 yards and two touchdowns.
His best attribute as a player is definitely the speed he brings to the table and his ability to separate down the field, which he'll be looking to do on Dak Prescott's offense this season.
But there was another wide receiver visiting Dallas this week and now we wonder whether or not the Deonte Thompson signing will keep the Cowboys from targeting former Jaguars' WR Allen Hurns.
According to Todd Archer, that won't be the case.
Told the signing of Deonte Thompson does not close the door on the Cowboys' interest in Allen Hurns, who visited the team Wednesday and had dinner. Things could get interesting in the Cowboys' wide receivers' room. https://t.co/Ivt5uk9kBN
It shouldn't be. First of all, Hurns is a much better player than Thompson and would provide this offense with a receiver who can play in the "X" or in the "Z" role. We've been talking about getting Prescott a reliable target to try to give him a "best friend." Allen Hurns could be just that.
Sure, he's had a couple of down seasons, but the talent is there to take.
Simply put, the Deonte Thompson signing shouldn't stop the Cowboys from looking at WR in the first round of the NFL Draft. Allen Hurns would.
It sure would make things interesting in the wide receiver room for Dallas. Despite what many believe, Dez Bryant will probably remain a Cowboy even if Hurns is signed. Let's say the Cowboys go out there and get the 26-year old from Jacksonville and have to decide which six receivers to keep for the season.
They'd possibly have to decide among these:
- Dez Bryant
- Terrrance Williams
- Cole Beasley
- Ryan Switzer
- Allen Hurns
- Deonte Thompson
- Noah Brown
- A drafted rookie?
This is where a lot of dilemmas start taking form. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are basically the same player and if you're not going to use them both at the same time, do you keep them anyway? What about Terrance Williams? He could be the worst receiver to make the cut just because of his contract.
Noah Brown showed promise in 2017, are they ready to move on from him? And finally, a rookie could very well end up beating Deonte Thompson, who was guaranteed a million in his contract.
Wide receiver is indeed one of the top needs for the Dallas Cowboys. They could head to the 2018 NFL Draft needing one in the top rounds or they could be fine signing Hurns and taking a late-rounder receiver to compete in training camp for a spot on the roster.
As long as they're having a tough time deciding because they are all good, it should be fine.
Cowboys Sign Free Agent WR Deonte Thompson
The Dallas Cowboys added some speed to their receiver corps today by signing free agent Deonte Thompson. He played for both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills last season.
Thompson, who turned 29 last month, went undrafted in 2012. He had a quiet to start to his career as a reserve and practice squad guy in Baltimore and Chicago, but finally got a chance to shine with seven starts last year for the Bills. He 27 catches for 430 yards and one touchdown in just 11 games.
The #Cowboys signed WR Deonte Thompson, per agent @davidcanter. He gets 1-year, $2.5M with a $1M signing bonus.
Deonte brings some much-needed speed to the Cowboys offense. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash as a rookie, and while he's 29 now he still poses more of a vertical threat than the current Dallas receivers.
Given the low salary in this deal, Thompson may not be seen as much than a replacement for Brice Butler near the bottom of Dallas' depth chart. We also have to wait and see what happens with the draft and other moves this offseason to know where he fits into the bigger picture.
For now, though, Cowboys fans can take a little comfort in knowing the front office hasn't completely fallen asleep at the wheel.
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