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Tyrone Crawford: Starter, Backup, or Progress Stopper With Cowboys?

What’s Tyrone Crawford’s role with the Dallas Cowboys in 2020?

Tyrone Crawford is entering the stage in his career where his role with the Dallas Cowboys is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be. For years now fans around Cowboys Nation have been calling for his head and now that he’s entering the final year of his contract under a new coaching staff, they could finally get their wish. That however isn’t a sure thing though.

Today, I thought I’d take a look at what Tyrone Crawford’s defensive role with the Dallas Cowboys could be in 2020. I think he falls into one of three categories: starter, backup, or progress stopper. I really think an argument could be made for any one of the three, however, I know where I would place him. Where would you?

Below are my somewhat unbiased thoughts on the topic…

STARTER

As things stand right now, the Dallas Cowboys probably have Tyrone Crawford penciled in as the starter at right defensive end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. He is the most experienced and longest tenured Cowboys defensive lineman currently on the roster. Those intangibles shouldn’t be overlooked. Other than D-Law, Crawford is the most reliable and trustworthy DE on the team and that’s saying something considering he’s coming off of double hip surgery. His versatility is something else to take into account. It’s something that endeared him to the previous coaching staff and could again with the new one.

BACKUP

Tyrone Crawford will count $9.1 million against the Dallas Cowboys salary cap this year, which is a hefty price tag to carry for any kind of player who’s not a full-time starter. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but one the Cowboys may be willing to choke down. He’s a good insurance policy if Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory aren’t ready to handle the lions share of the workload and his versatility to play multiple positions along the DL works in his favor as well. With questionable depth at both DE and DT, Crawford’s versatility could prove to be invaluable. That alone could very likely keep him around, even if he’s not the starter.

PROGRESS STOPPER

The Dallas Cowboys currently have several younger, more athletic defensive ends on the roster and that could make Tyrone Crawford nothing more than a progress stopper. It’s hard enough to get younger players the reps and practice time they need to develop, but having an aging player with recent injury concerns ahead of them on the depth chart makes things even more difficult. Sometimes it’s in the best interest of the team to cut ties with these “progress stoppers”, especially ones who can create quite a bit of salary-cap relief as well. Add it all up and Crawford’s days with the Cowboys could be numbered.

Is Tyrone Crawford a starter, backup, or progress stopper?

What do you think?

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Brian Martin

Written by Brian Martin

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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  1. While he is a good glue guy, I personally think that Crawford is a progress stopper for the younger players, nt to mention his salary. If Gregory is reinstated than I would release Crawford no matter what. His best days are behind him.

    • Erick, I’m kind of leaning that way myself. With guys like Joe Jackson, Jalen Jelks, and Bradlee Anae behind him on the depth chart it will be difficult to find them reps and practice. That’s not even mentioning Aldon Smith or Randy Gregory. There’s some potential talent in the Cowboys youth, but they need to play in order to find out for sure.

    • I’m actually more excited about Randy Gregory’s return then I am Aldon Smith’s. Gregory has some rare athletic ability only a few pass rushers in the NFL possess. If he can ever stay on the field for any length of time and be consistent, I think he to be a 10+ sack.

  2. I keep wondering why the Cowboys don’t just release Crawford and sign Everson Griffen who would be an immediate upgrade not to mention an immediate starter. Griffen had 8 sacks last year plus 11 tackles for loss, Crawford has never had more than 5 sacks in a year and more of rotational guy. Keep in mind we have no idea how Crawford will respond after his double hip surgery. Last I heard Griffen asking price is about 10mil which is not too far from Crawford’s 9mil.

    • The Cowboys will probably have to give Griffen a multiple year deal. Considering his age and price tag, that would probably be unwise. Might as well just write it out with Crawford for now, however, in no way do I see him as a roster lock. I think he’s going out to play head and shoulders better than the players on the depth chart behind him.

  3. Spot on article! And I don’t think this decision has to be made until well into Training Camp. Let’s see how all these others perform first. If they rise up and Crawford becomes expendable, then try to get a 5th rounder for him, if the kids fail to develop as desired, he’s got a lot of value.

    Everything I read about Griffen suggests he’s a rotational player himself, and some teams are questioning his off-field attributes. For the same money and for the same limited snap count, I’d prefer a known commodity that also has some versatility, and is a great culture fit.

    • Bill, training camp for Crawford is going to be a big one for him. I think he’s going to have to be head and shoulders better than some of the younger and arguably more talented players behind him on the depth chart. If not, it might be hard for him to make the roster.

    • Bill, Crawford is a 30 year old lineman coming off double hip surgery and has never had more than 5 sacks in a year. No team is going to give up a 5th round pick for him. If Anae, Jackson, Armstrong, Jelks, etc.. look good in training camp then the only option would be to release him. Griffen on the other hand has been more than a rotational player. Personally, I wouldn’t sign him for the money and years he would be asking for. If Gregory gets reinstated, you then will have Smith, Gregory, Anae(who I’m a big fan of), Armstrong, Jackson(who I like as well), etc.. A lot of options.

      • Darren, you are correct in that Griffen has been more than a rotational player … the keywords being “has been”. He’s older than Crawford and has reported off-field issues (though admittedly I don’t if that is founded, or what they may be). If he were universally viewed as more than that, he’d be on a roster already. If Griffen were on this roster, all these same things being said currently about Crawford would apply to him as well. And we have to consider he will not come “on the cheap”. He is not going to play every down here, and if you want him because of his pass rush skills, that means he’s now in the way of Anae, Gregory and Smith (whom I prefer). So suddenly he’s a bonafide progress stopper … at a cost of $8 million minimum? I say spend elsewhere … we only have $10-12 million in space now and haven’t signed our draft picks.

  4. Well done article Brian. I think Crawford is a rotation guy but in more limited basis depending how other d tackles look. The fact that he is somewhat versatile helps in that he can play both tackle and end which helps depth. But for 9.1 million u expect more of an impact player which he has never been.

    • Gary, I completely agree. I think at best Crawford is a rotational player in 2020. However, I also see him as a progress stopper if Aldon Smith or Randy Gregory return anywhere close to what they used to be on the field.

      • The only problem with Crawford is his salary and that is not his fault. I am surprised the Cowboys have not approached him about a salary cut. I would say goodbye to Crawford and being on Griffen on a 1yr deal. He could be this team’s version of Charles Haley.

  5. Starter. Hands down. He is the best run defender at Edge on the team and teams run a lot on 1st down. He also puts a lot of pressure on the QB. Providing he is 100% healthy. If he isn’t close to 100% of what he was a few years ago then he’ll get cut.

    • I think you kind of contradicted yourself there. “Starter. Hands down.” Then you going to say if he’s not 100% healthy he’ll get cut. I get it though. That’s the concern with Crawford right now. Is he healthy?

      I do think he’s probably the starter right now, but I think a real good case can be made for the other two as well. Training camp will be telling for him.

  6. I wouldn’t cut him unless the young guys have an amazing training camp and pre-season. With so much turnover on coaching staff, I think it helps to keep Crawford on the team as he is a leader of the defense and the team, not to mention his experience. To me that’s more important than cutting him to help develop younger talent, especially this off-season when who knows how many practices they will have together.

    This year his experience and leadership are even more important than any other year, they shouldn’t be looking to get rid of that to save $8 million this year.

    • I think there’s only one reason I would cut Crawford before seeing whether or not he’s back to 100%. That’s if the Cowboys are trying to create more salary-cap space in order to trade and sign Jamal Adams long-term.

  7. I think he makes the team, not sure if starter or not, but I would keep him unless the young guys have an amazing training camp and preseason. With the complete coaching overhaul not to mention the adjustments to the off-season pogrom due to Covid, his leadership and experience are even more important than usual, more so than saving $8 million this year.

    • Sean, that’s my way of thinking as well right now. Of course, I do have concerns about the double hip surgeries he had in the off-season and whether or not that will impact his play. I think he’s really going to have to get the ground running in training camp though, because waiting on him to get 100% healthy may not be a luxury the new coaching staff is willing to wait on.

    • I’m a little surprised Clay Matthews is still available. Makes me wonder why? Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s in the Cowboys plans unless it’s as an emergency signing because of an unforeseen injury.

  8. I agree with the article and what Bill said, is to early to decide on Crawford. He can play DE or DT in a 4/3 and also has experience playing DE in a 3/4. He also a leader in the locker room and with players like Smith and Gregory you need that. Now if Jackson, Jelks, Anae or Armstrong excel during training camp he is gone. As for Griffen he is talented but has had problems throughout his career and his salary is higher and he left Minnesota because he wanted more. I believe the Cowboys have the pieces to run a hybrid defense and Crawford can help but only if he is healthy

    • Crawford’s is definitely an intriguing player right now and I can’t wait to with him and the rest of the Cowboys defensive line once the pad start coming on. This unit has a potential to be really good.

  9. I think they misused Crawford. He is not a DT, he is a DE. His career would have been better if they didn’t use him to plug holes at Tackle. In the past, they never really addressed that position PROPERLY, in the draft or otherwise. His play suffered, but being a team player, he did his best.

    IMHO, he is a starter until other(s) are able to sub plant him.

    • You do know that Crawford is a better DT than he is a DE right!? His original position mite have been DE, but if you look at his stats he’s always been better at DT!! Personally, I don’t think he’s that good either way, and he’s definitely not worth over 9 million!! So since he has the biggest salary out of the rest of the RDE that should place him in as the starter automatically…. But I would definitely cut him as soon as I could, or at least give him a pay cut!! But he’s not worth keeping at that price!!

  10. Undoubtedly a progress stopper! He is decent but nothing special and he is WAY overpaid for his production! They love his position flexibility but he is not that great at DE or DT! They have younger guys who deserve a shot. Crawford is what he is which is a decent role player!

  11. I don’t know VAM if Crawford is a true end he has never shown much pass rush ability, I think with Poe and McCoy run stuffing abilities and solid penetration skills the cowboys will be really looking for their ends to pin ears back and get pressure on the QB so if they are using Crawford a lot that means that Gregory and/or Smith aren’t making an impact which doesn’t bode well for the team. D Lawrence cant do it by himself. But with that said still a handy guy to have around. Has the corporate knowledge and locker room presence that is important in its own right.

    • Gary, if Gregory gets reinstated and sub plants Crawford, fine. Gregory obviously has more pass rush ability. Same for Smith, who is already reinstated. I am not very confidant with either player yet as we know Gregory has had many chances and has not been able to stay on the field. Smith has been out of NFL for 5 years, so many think that is too long. I wish both well. Let’s see what these guys have left in the tank.

      • Gregory hasn’t been able to stay on the field because he liked to smoke, that’s it!! Now he don’t have to worry about that!! And Aldon Smith actually played at the end of 2015, so it hasn’t quite been 5 years since he’s played, it’s been more like 4 years…. But either way, these guys have been playing the game for all their lives, just because they haven’t played in a couple of years it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how to play the game!! I guarantee Aldon Smith is gonna shock a lot of people when he gets back on the field!! And I can’t wait to see it!!

  12. I dont see how he wouldnt take a pay cut to around $3.5 Million plus incentives. He needs to follow Sean Lee’s path to end his career with the Cowboys. If a paycut doesnt happen he should 100% be cut.

  13. Yea VAM it worries me that we are so dependent on Smith and Gregory providing pass rush opposite tank lawrence. Just too many variables with those two there and could have a big domino effect. Its quite possible that neither are impact players and If teams are able to double Lawrence each game we could be sorely lacking a pass rush this yr. and it just exposes our suspect secondary even more.

  14. Crawford will be there until final cuts, and may make the team if there are injuries to other guys, but with Gregory, Smith, Anae, Armstrong and Carter on the 90-Man roster, it does not leave much room at the EDGE for Crawford. Dropping Crawford will save a lot of money in cap space. Plus, Personally, I think everyone is forgetting about Joe Jackson. He made the 53-Man roster last year and stayed there all season. He didn’t get many snaps on the year, but it was a good learning experience for him. He is big, fast, athletic and strong. I look for him to make a big jump this year. It is time for the young guys to step up. If I had to pick the 6 Defensive Ends and 4 Defensive tackles that make the final cut, it would be:
    DE DeMarcus Lawrence
    DE Aldon Smith
    DE Randy Gregory
    DE Bradley Anae
    DE Joe Jackson
    DE Dorance Armstrong

    DT Gerald McCoy
    DT Dontari Poe
    DT Antwaun Woods
    DT Neville Gallimor

    DE Ron’Dell Carter and DE Jalen Jelks would be top considerations for the Practice Squad.

  15. He’s a progress stopper. Need to follow in the steps of the Patriots. He has not produced in a way to warrant what he is getting paid. There are other players on the roster that are as versatile if not more. LaDon Smith with the added weight can kick inside and play tackle in certain packages as well as Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks. We have McCoy, Poe, Gallimore, Woods and Hill that are DT. Gregory will get reinstated at DE to go along with Lawrence, Smith, Armstrong, Jackson and Anae. You have leadership in Lee and Smith at the LB position and Lawrence and McCoy on the DL. Holding on to old players that haven’t played up to their contracts have been part of the problem over the years. Teams that compete for Super Bowls make these cuts and groom younger players.

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