After a one-year stop in Dallas, Christian Covington may be headed back into free agency in 2020. But the defensive lineman's experience and versatility could be especially valuable to the Cowboys' new coaching staff, and thus could make it even easier for him to get a new contract.
Covington was signed last year to provide some experienced depth. He played out his rookie contract in Houston as a 3-4 defensive end, but the Cowboys used him at defensive tackle in their 4-3 scheme.
With Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods holding down the starting spots, Covington was limited to backup and rotation duty until Woods went out with a knee injury. Christian started six games with more focus on stopping the run and gap control, so less opportunities to go after the quarterback.
I mention that because, with only one sack last year, Covington could be easily dismissed as an asset now. But considering he had 3.5 sacks in just 12 games in 2018, there's clearly some pass-rushing ability that Dallas may not have been tapping into.
That said, even with Maliek Collins likely leaving as a free agent, last year's 2nd-round pick Trysten Hill is expected to step into that role.
Covington could indeed return as a versatile backup to Hill and Woods, capable of playing in either's role in the 4-3 scheme. But what may really increase Christian's value to Dallas in 2020 is his previous experience in the 3-4 defense.
The change from Rod Marinelli to Mike Nolan as Cowboys defensive coordinator could bring some new ways for a player like Christian Covington to be utilized. Nolan has traditionally preferred the 3-4 scheme for his defenses.
Nolan and new Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula have both stated that the Cowboys would have a flexible scheme, doing what's best for the players rather than trying to fit players into a certain design. But even if Dallas only wants to go to a 3-4 look sometimes, having a guy with Covington's experience would be quite useful.
If Dallas doesn't decide to hang on to Tyrone Crawford, who spent one year as a 3-4 DE when he joined the Cowboys, then Covington could wind up being their only lineman with 3-4 experience in 2020.
Also potentially making Covington attractive to Dallas should be a low asking price in free agency. Christian got a one-year, $2.5 million deal last season and didn't do enough to ask for more now.
So between that modest compensation and his scheme versatility, Christian Covington is clearly a player that Dallas could hope to bring back in 2020. It likely wouldn't be for anything more than a backup role, but that was the case last year and he nearly started half the season due to injuries.
Winning seasons tend to happen thanks to quality depth. Hopefully for Covington's sake, the Cowboys seem him as such an asset.