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Who Loses Most in Cowboys Signing of DE Everson Griffen?

The Dallas Cowboys made big news last night by signing 4-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Everson Griffen.  So with such a big-name veteran coming in, who currently on the Cowboys roster is going to be most affected?

While he turns 33 in December, Griffen is still a high-performing player and is expected to have a major role in 2020. He’s coming off an eight-sack season and Pro Bowl appearance, plus appeared in over 77% of the Vikings’ defensive snaps in 2019. He’s still a clear starter in the NFL.

The ripple effect won’t touch DeMarcus Lawrence, obviously.  Tank is still the Cowboys’ franchise player on the defensive line and will only benefit from having Griffen in the mix. Last year Robert Quinn benefited greatly from having DeMarcus on the other side of the line, and we can reasonably hope for a similar effect this year between Lawrence and Griffen.

Tyrone Crawford will take a hit. He was the presumptive starter after Robert Quinn’s exit; still finding ways to stick around despite his high salary cap number. While Griffen’s arrival won’t knock Tyrone off the roster, it could mean he goes back into more of a rotation role flexing between the DE and DT positions.

One guy who could really feel the pinch is Aldon Smith. Trying to make his NFL comeback after a five-year absence, Smith’s stock was looking up when Crawford had to go on the PUP list to start camp. He had a great opportunity to work with the starters in practice and perhaps carve out a significant role early.

But now Everson Griffen comes in without the uphill battle that Aldon faces. He should walk into that starting role and leave Smith with a tougher fight for playing time. While I expect to see Aldon plenty in 2020, especially as a pass-rushing specialist, his chances at being a Week One starter seem to have gone out the window.

The really bad news comes further down the depth chart. This likely means one less spot at DE and one of Bradlee Anae, Dorance Armstrong, or Joe Jackson likely losing their opportunity to make the 53-man roster.

Jackson, Jelks are Sleepers to Keep an eye on
Dallas Cowboys DE Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson was going to have a hard time making it anyway. Ever before the Griffen signing you still had Lawrence, Crawford, Smith, Anae, and Armstrong as the likely top-five defensive ends. A 5th-round pick in 2019, Jackson would need to have a stellar camp to push his way into the mix.

Now you have to wonder how Anae and Armstrong will fare. The edge would seem to go to the rookie as Bradlee was just selected by our new coaching staff while Dorance is entering his third season. But Armstrong’s pass-rushing skills have earned him playing time the last two years and could keep him around now.

Mind you, Dallas could keep still keep six defensive ends. With Tyrone Crawford effectively being backup at both defensive line positions, the Cowboys could decide to hang on to an extra young DE with Crawford, Griffen, and Smith all becoming free agents in 2021.

In that case, the bad news could shift to DT and either Trysten Hill or Antwaun Woods. Even with the new coaching staff the Cowboys may not be ready to give up on Hill, their 2nd-round pick just a year ago.

Lingering loyalty to Trysten will probably mean the end for Antwaun Woods. He’ll hang around as long as Dontari Poe is on the PUP list, but once Poe is ready to play then it’s hard to see a future for Woods in Dallas.

While he’s not on the roster at the moment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Randy Gregory as well. Still trying to get reinstated and not having an easy go of it, Gregory’s continued absence and the uncertainty of his 2020 return may be part of what prompted the Cowboys to sign Everson Griffen.

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While Cowboys fans are delighted to see Everson Griffen join the team as a true replacement for Robert Quinn, many at the DE position can’t be thrilled. He’s going to eat up a big chunk of the rotation and limit the opportunities for younger prospects and Aldon Smith who are trying to prove their worth.

Thankfully, that’s the coaches problem to figure out. Whatever the ripple effect may be, Griffen should make the Cowboys defensive line stronger and more competitive as Dallas looks to get back to the postseason.

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. Loser will be one of the young, least expensive guys with good growth potential. Hope they get it right. They’ll likely stash Jackson and Carter on the practice squad and hope they don’t eventually get poached, but Carter was sought after by a number of teams immediately following the draft, so I think they lose him in that scenario.

    Then again, if they suffer an injury or two among the DE’s in camp, this will have been a genius move?

  2. Dallas has been very quiet about Crawford the entire off season. He is counting $8 Mil against the cap and is coming off a devastating injury/surgery. There is no way to really know how he will play going forward. Add to this the reality that he has never been a dominant player and I believe he will be forced out as a salary cap casualty.

  3. Interesting thought Mark! The general consensus has been the cowboys will retain him due to his experience and locker room presence. But if the injury concerns at all carry over into camp, his avg production and the addition of Griffen could make him expendable.

  4. I think it’s time to part ways with Crawford, he’s been the glue for years but with Mckoy and Poe in DT and coming off a bad injury, he may never be the same. 8 mil is too much to be a rotational player with our Cap problems…

  5. I think you all underestimate exactly what Crawford has alway brought to this team. His leadership in the locker room has always been upfront, he’s been a team captain and his versatility has saved this team almost year in and year out with injuries to other players. You cant call his play mediocre when hes able to play at different positions in a pinch. He can play DE or DT in both a 4-3 and 3-4 defense. While he-s never been seen as an all pro, hes definitely always been a solid player and team mate his whole career and thats why you see Jerry not even blink an eye about paying him. You have to remember he offered to take a pay cut if thats what it took to stay and Jerry said he wasnt gonna cut his pay. Obviously they believe in him and appreciate him. I think a lot of fans have just over looked what he has brought to the team all these years and Im hoping hes able to finish it up being the same solid player hes always been.

    • You’ve nailed it Brandon, add in the fact that Jerry has always been willing to pay for services rendered and not just services to-be rendered … meaning he tries to reward guys who have been team-minded, and Crawford fits that bill as you spell out.

      But, there comes a time when a business decision will just have to be made. Maybe Crawford sticks this year, then his situation gets addressed again next year, or perhaps (if Crawford is willing) he becomes a viable trade-deadline candidate. By the the young guys and Smith/Gregory situations should be advanced enough to have let roles be determined. Right now, not unlike the offensive line, there are a lot of variables in play beyond the starting four. Good post.

  6. Ur right about everything u said Brandon. I agree he is all those things u say. But this being a business the cowboys have to approach it as such. He is coming off a serious injury and his production has dipped a bit every yr. The cowboys have some young talented linemen they wanna start integrating (Anae/Gallimore) to name a few, and if Crawford plays he takes away their reps and delays their development. The addition of Poe/McCoy/Griffen also plays into that. It’s no disrespect to Crawford but cowboys have to do what is best for the team.

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