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Should Cowboys Pursue Free Agent DE/OLB Markus Golden?

While the Dallas Cowboys should be very happy with their offseason thus far, two areas that could still use some help are defensive end and linebacker. If Dallas has interest in adding more talent through free agency in 2020, one player who could help both spots is sixth-year veteran Markus Golden.

Coming off a season with 10 sacks for the New York Giants, Golden still being on the open market is a bit surprising. He turned just 29 in March and was more productive rushing the passer last season than most players from this year’s free agent group.

One of those free agents was Robert Quinn, who capitalized on his bounce-back season in Dallas and signed a lucrative deal with the Chicago Bears. Quinn’s departure has left the Cowboys looking to replace his 11.5 sacks in 2019.

Dallas’ current strategy seems to be multi-faceted. Still having DeMarcus Lawrence on one side of the line, the Cowboys have loaded up on risky options for the other.

Tyrone Crawford, despite being ripe for a salary cap casualty, appears to be coming back. But Crawford isn’t a great pass rusher from the DE position; his value is more in run formations and rushing from the inside.

Prospects Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, and Jalen Jelks are also still under contract. Armstrong has flashed some intriguing potential at times, but counting on any of them would be a huge gamble.

A different kind of gamble is what Dallas is doing with Randy Gregory and newly-signed Aldon Smith. Expecting both to be reinstated in 2020, the Cowboys are hoping at least one will be able to resurrect his career and be an upper-tier pass rusher.

Dallas also drafted DE Bradlee Anae with a 5th-Round pick last week. While he was considered a steal for where he was selected, counting on him for an immediate impact would also be questionable.

So yes, lots of options but also plenty of risk. Personally, I’m a fan of the Gregory/Smith idea and believe one of them or the combined impact of both will sufficiently replace Robert Quinn.

But if the Cowboys wants to mitigate risk with a more proven commodity, Markus Golden could be the right guy for the right price.

Markus Golden
Free Agent DE/OLB Markus Golden

A 2nd-Round pick in 2015, Golden emerged a pass-rushing threat for the Cardinals as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He put up 12.5 sacks in his second season, but an ACL tear ended his third year after just four games.

Markus only played in 11 games the following year and put up 2.5 sacks. Arizona elected not to re-sign him after his rookie contract ended and Golden took a one-year deal with the Giants.

Last year Golden rebounded with 10 sacks for New York playing as an outside linebacker and pass rusher. While he’s not ideal for the 4-3 defense, his versatility may well suit what the Cowboys plan to do in 2020.

While not switching to the 3-4 scheme under Mike Nolan this year, Dallas has expressed a plan to employ some “3-4 philosophies” in their defense. One of those is the use of designated pass rusher, as well as probably throwing some occasional 3-4 looks at opponents.

While Jaylon Smith could also play the role of a pass-rushing outside linebacker, Markus Golden has more experience and ideal size for the role.

Reports from early April had Golden looking for $10 million per year in his next contract. But with another month and the NFL Draft having passed, he might be more flexible now.

Dallas could easily fund the move by cutting Tyrone Crawford and putting that $8 million in cap space toward Golden. Now that they’re flush with defensive tackles after signing Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, plus draft Neville Gallimore, it would arguably be a better use of the money than keeping Crawford.

What’s more, signing Markus Golden also takes him away from a division rival.

Markus Golden, Giants
Free Agent DE/OLB Markus Golden

One factor in this discussion is the news, just as of Monday, that New York has used a little-known provision on Golden called the “unrestricted free agent tender.” This could dissuade Dallas and other teams from signing him as it would hurt their compensatory pick formula for 2021.

Basically, because Markus remained unsigned as of April 27th, the Giants were able to use this provision to help secure him for next year. If Golden is unable to find a new team before July 22nd, he would return to New York at a 110% of his prior year’s salary.

That would be a steal for the Giants; a little over $4 million for their top pass rusher.

Golden is free to negotiate with teams now and sign anywhere he likes. But the use of the UFA tender means he would still count against the compensatory pick formula even after Monday’s deadline passed.

The Cowboys are expecting an attractive package of compensatory picks in 2021. The deals signed by Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, Randall Cobb, and others with new teams far outweighed Dallas’ free agent additions. They are currently projected to receive extra picks in each of Rounds 3-6.

Signing Markus Golden to what he’s wanting would likely cost them one of those mid-round picks. But given the total haul they’re expecting, should Dallas really lose sleep over it?

We’ve seen how quickly things fall apart on defense without a pass rush. And given the risks Dallas is already taking with their defensive backs this year, should they also play fast and loose with pressuring the quarterback?

Again, I have high hopes for what Randy Gregory and Aldon Smith can accomplish in 2020. But I’d be just fine with the Cowboys hedging their bets by signing Markus Golden or another more reliable option.

And if it also means preventing him going back to the Giants? Bonus!

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. I about stopped reading this as soon as I read the first sentence!! With all the players we have at edge and LB, how can those positions be so much of a need!? You do realize that we only have 4 safeties on the team right now and only 2 of them are worth starting!! And those same 2 will be free agent’s after this season leaving us with zero starters!! We need to use the extra money we have to sign a safety or 2!! But even if we do decide to sign an edge rusher it would be stupid to give up our draft picks just to sign one when there’s other options out there…. Everson Griffen just to name one…. And I personally think he’s better than Golden not to mention cheaper and wouldn’t cost us our draft capital either!! Me personally, I think we’re good with the edge rushers and LBs we have right now, I don’t think we need anymore at either position, but if we did sign one, I’d prefer to sign Griffen and use one of our UDFA LBs and keep our draft capital!! But like I said, I believe we’re good at those positions, but we could really use some help at safety!!

  2. The boys have a slew of rushers, ever heard of Jelks, Jackson, etc, they have talent & with the Clapper gone they might even get a chance to play. Yeah no sense of losing a pick for golden. Pick up Everson Griffen, he is a true stud. I hope they get him, but they won’t cause it makes sense.

  3. Loving this off season. If there was a trophy for the off season. We’d be good.love the Any Dalton pickup.great BACKUP. reminds me of Kyle Orton.could keep team in games and win a few.now to get Golden age 29 double digit sack guy.& sticking it to the Giants. Well worth it.how many pro 5th rounders in league.Griffin is someone ive been pinning for. &O.J Howard potential might be (my favorite word elite steal. Superbowl this or next year.

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