It’s easy to look at a player’s salary cap number an start to think the player isn’t worth retaining. However, when you’re a team like the Dallas Cowboys, who after signing Amari Cooper, several outside free agents, and placed the franchise tag on Dak Prescott (which is already accounted for on the 2020 salary cap), still have about $20 million in cap space.
The Cowboys certainly could release Defensive Lineman Tyrone Crawford and save $8 million on the 2020 salary cap if they wanted to, but if they don’t need the money, what’s the point?
New Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan has been vocal about his desire for the Dallas Cowboys defense to play in multiple defensive fronts. In recent years the Cowboys have strictly played out of four-man defensive fronts. The Dallas Cowboys are building a roster that will allow them to play in multiple fronts and Tyrone Crawford will be a big part of that.
Crawford came into the NFL when the Dallas Cowboys were still playing in a 3-4 in 2012 and played primarily as a defensive end in their odd-man front. While Crawford sat out in 2013 with an Achilles injury, Dallas switched to a 4-3 defense under Monte Kiffen. When Crawford came back, he was used primarily as a 3-technique defensive tackle, utilizing his quickness to get penetration. That first season back, he had three sacks and followed that up with five sacks in 2015.
As the Cowboys have struggled to find any consistency at the right defensive end, Tyrone Crawford has spent a lot of time there helping solidify the Dallas Cowboys run defense all the while providing solid production as a pass rusher.
His experience playing both as a 4-3 defensive end and defensive tackle as well as a 3-4 defensive end will fit right into what Mike Nolan is hoping to accomplish with his defensive fronts. Like Dontari Poe and Gerald McCoy who recently signed with the Cowboys to play along the interior defensive line, Crawford provides an ability to play several positions as Nolan attempts to keep offenses off balance with his defensive alignments.
He could be a defensive end in three-man fronts in both a 3-4 base or a 3-3-5 nickel alignment. Or he could play a defensive tackle in a 4-3 base or four-man nickel and dime alignments.
When the Cowboys send in their pass-rushing group in third and long situations or when they’re playing with a lead, Crawford still makes a ton of sense to play on the interior. Could you imagine the rush you could get with Gerald McCoy and Crawford collapsing the middle of the pocket and DeMarcus Lawrence and (possibly) Randy Gregory coming around the edge? That would be quite formidable.
Aside from 2019, when Tyrone Crawford didn’t play but four games and was limited in each, he hasn’t had fewer than four sacks since the 2014 season. That may not be worth the $9.1 million a year cap hit that he’ll carry into 2020, but given the reports that Crawford would be open to a pay reduction to stay with the Dallas Cowboys, it wouldn’t make sense to outright release him.
With Robert Quinn off to Chicago, Randy Gregory still working to get reinstated, and Dorance Armstrong yet to take the next step in his development, the Dallas Cowboys are lacking for experience and production at their right defensive end spot. While it’s likely that Randy Gregory will return in 2020, it isn’t the best plan to rely upon him for a full complement of starters snaps right out of the gate.
His ability to play the run and provide a little something as a pass rusher was sorely missed last year. The Dallas Cowboys struggled at times up the middle against the run and that’s part of the reason why Maliek Collins was allowed to walk in free agency and they’ve spent money to bolster the middle with Poe and McCoy. Though Cowboys fans don’t want to admit it, Tyrone Crawford is a valuable member of that locker room. His position flexibility and leadership counted for something under the old regime and it appears they plan on keeping him under the new regime.
Every successful team in the NFL has guys that are valuable beyond the stat sheet. Those are what analysts like to call the glue guys. Every team needs them. They’re the player you can rely on to do their job and to do it well, even if they’re not a superstar. Tyrone Crawford is absolutely one of those players. For the defensive line and the defense as a whole, he’s a player they look to for leadership because of his willingness to do whatever he can to help the team and the effort he gives in doing so.
Though fans and analysts have tried to cut Tyrone Crawford for years, it’s time to appreciate him for what the player that he is beyond the price attached to his name.