Defensive Tackle Justin Hamilton spent a week on the Dallas Cowboys roster in 2019. While not a favorite to make the team this year, Hamilton does bring much-needed size to the competition and now may get more opportunities to shine with Dontari Poe going to PUP.
Ahead of last year’s Week 7 contest against the Washington Football Team, Dallas signed Hamilton off the street after placing Tyrone Crawford on injured reserve. With Antwaun Woods also dealing with some injury issues at that time, Hamilton provided a potential big-bodied DT for the rotation if needed.
Justin was on the roster for that Washington game but wasn’t active. He was then released a few days later when Dallas traded for veteran Michael Bennett. Hamilton returned to free agency and remained there until January, when the Cowboys re-signed him on a futures deal.
Hamilton isn’t another undrafted rookie or second-year prospect. He just turned 27 on Monday and has been in the NFL since 2015 with six different teams. He dressed in eight games for the Kansas City Chiefs between 2017-2018.
Listed at 6’2″ and 315 lbs., Hamilton is a true space-eating defensive tackle. His game is based on size and power, lacking the quickness and moves to do much as a pass rusher.
Dallas has plenty of the latter right now. In addition to the returning Trysten Hill, the Cowboys signed veteran Gerald McCoy and spent a 3rd-round pick on Neville Gallimore this offseason. These guys are all of the more athletic variety.
But their other veteran DT signing, Dontari Poe, still hasn’t full recovered from offseason quadriceps surgery. The project starter as the 1-technique DT this year, Poe was placed on the PUP list two days ago and won’t rejoin the team until he passes a physical.
With Christian Covington having departed in free agency, that leaves Antwaun Woods as the only other experienced run-stopper in the DT group. That should give Justin Hamilton more opportunities to get reps in practice and from further up the depth chart.
Someone on the staff clearly likes him. Hamilton was on Dallas’ radar to get signed in the middle of the season last year and to also be brought back for 2020.
Along with size, Justin has an edge right now thanks to his five years of NFL experience. He’s been through training camps and preseason games, plus spent years on other teams’ practice squads. Those are valuable commodities in 2020 with COVID-19 robbing rookies of the same experiences.
If Poe were to remain out going into Week One, Dallas could easily be looking at a guy like Hamilton for temporary depth. They did it once before when he was coming off the street so having now had him in training camp could add to his value.
Then again, this is a guy who’s had numerous opportunities to catch on with other teams, plus the Cowboys last year. It just hasn’t happened yet for Justin and it perhaps it never will.
That said, Justin Hamilton brings size and experience to the DT competition in 2020. Given the circumstances around him, he may have a stronger shot at making the roster this year than you’d think.