With OTAs approaching, the Dallas Cowboys will work on starting the 2017 NFL season in the best position possible. There are still a few big-name free agents who have yet to land with a team. Some may fit what the Cowboys are looking for. Others, however, whether it's due to age or scheme fit, may not be in the Cowboys' plans.
When we take a look at the positions, the team could still use an upgrade or a veteran presence at the defensive end position. The only issue with the team adding another defensive lineman is they already have a very crowded DE group.
The Defensive Ends
- DeMarcus Lawrence – DeMarcus Lawrence is coming off multiple back surgeries and hasn't lived up to his hefty expectations after the team traded up to draft him in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
- Taco Charlton – Taco Charlton, after being drafted with the 28th overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, will be forced to play early and often for the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas drafted Charlton to come in and compete for a starting job immediately.
- Benson Mayowa – Benson Mayowa, the team's sack leader in 2016, will look to regain the same form early in 2017 that he finished with in 2016. After starting out the season very slow, Mayowa turned it on in the last month of the season, finishing the season with four sacks in the final five games.
- David Irving – We saw David Irving's ability to absolutely take over a game last year in Green Bay, and then against Tampa Bay. If Irving can learn to play at that level consistently, he may just earn himself a starting job.
- Tyrone Crawford – Tyrone Crawford is looked at to be the veteran along the defensive line, and maybe even on the whole defense. What Crawford lacks is the skill set to really take this defense over the top.Crawford has found himself bouncing all around the line, playing both defensive end and defense tackle. With the emergence of second year player Maliek Collins and the addition of Stephen Paea and Joey Ivie, the Cowboys may make Crawford a primary left defensive end.
- Charles Tapper – The one real question mark in the room comes with second year player, Charles Tapper. Tapper was supposed to be a big addition to the Cowboys defense last year before spending his whole season rehabbing from a back injury that has followed Tapper his whole life.Tapper has a lot of potential coming off the edge. Questions still remain with his health and if he can translate his college success to the NFL.
- Damontre Moore – Damontre Moore was signed this offseason as a free agent after spending time with the Seahawks, Giants, and Dolphins. Moore showed flashes of why some teams viewed him as a first round pick while with the Seahawks last year. Moore by no means has a reserved spot on the team, due to his contract size, off the field issues, and his lack of consistency.
Free Agent Options
- Dwight Freeney – Even at 37-years-old, Dwight Freeney was a valuable piece to the Atlanta Falcons' Super Bowl run last year. Freeney was healthy for all but one game in 2016 and finished the regular season with three sacks while playing in very limited snaps.Freeney was more than just a player for the Falcons. He was a mentor for all the young talents along that Atlanta defensive line. That's exactly what the Cowboys need in their defensive meeting rooms.
- Devin Taylor – I am a bit surprised Devin Taylor is still available this deep into the offseason. At just 27-years-old, Taylor should still have plenty of gas left in the tank and he would be relatively cheap. Taylor racked up 4.5 sacks in 2016 as a starter on the Detroit Lions defense. Taylor is a player who has had success in the league and could be an important role-player coming off the bench.
- Elvis Dumervil – Dumervil is just two years removed from his 17-sack season with the Baltimore Ravens, but is now searching for a job. You don't hear that very often.Dumervil missed about half the season last year dealing with a foot injury that kept him out eight of the team's sixteen games. Dumervil — when healthy — is still a very dangerous pass rusher coming off the edge.Dallas would be smart to offer Dumervil an incentive based “prove it” deal.
As you can see, the options are very limited this deep into the offseason, but one thing is for sure: injuries are going to happen and there is no such thing as too many pass rushers.
All three of the free agents listed above have had success in the league and would bring a veteran presence to a locker room full of young guys. The average age of the Cowboys' defensive ends is 24. While youth benefits your defense, having a veteran or two in the locker room to mentor and teach the young bloods a thing or two can take an average defense over the top.
That is something the Dallas Cowboys need desperately to reach an NFC Championship.