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Young DTs are Intriguing, but Should Cowboys Seek More Help in 2021?

The Dallas Cowboys head into 2021 with pair of young, intriguing defensive tackles in Neville Gallimore and Trysten Hill. But even with these recent draft picks to work with, Dallas needs to invest more in the position for depth and to challenge for starting jobs. We’ll look at the middle of the defensive line with our next Position Preview.

With Hill being a 2nd-round pick in 2019 and Gallimore last year’s 3rd-round selection, the Cowboys would love to see these two blossom as starters in 2021. It would give Dallas at least two more seasons of inexpensive stability at defensive tackle while they’re on rookie contracts, plus validate those premium Day 2 picks that were used to get them.

But neither Neville or Trysten had yet to give us a full season of consistent play that you can really trust. And even if they are a deserving starting duo in 2021, the depth may be getting wiped out in free agency.

That means the Cowboys have some work to do again this offseason at defensive tackle.

2021 Defensive Tackle Contract Statuses

  • Signed
    • Neville Gallimore
    • Justin Hamilton
    • Trysten Hill
    • Walter Palmore
  • Free Agents
    • Eli Ankou (U)
    • Tyrone Crawford (U)
    • Antwaun Woods (R)
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights

Dallas hasn’t done much investing at DT in recent history. They were content to let Rod Marinelli try to find diamonds in the rough and focused their cap and draft resources elsewhere.

Last year marked a noted difference as the Cowboys signed veterans Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, plus drafted Gallimore only a year after taking Hill. It was arguably the most effort Dallas put towards the DT position since they signed La’Roi Glover in 2002.

But even then the Cowboys were still hunting for a bargain. They hoped that McCoy and Poe, both on the decline and coming off injuries, would provide relatively inexpensive upgrades from their previous journeymen.

Dallas got even less then what they paid for. McCoy’s quad injury took him at the start of training camp and Poe was released in October due to poor conditioning and no impact on the field.

The bright spot of 2020 at defensive tackle was the comeback by Trysten Hill after a tough rookie season. He was flashing signs of being a real difference maker before an ACL injury ended Hill’s sophomore surge in Week 5.

Gallimore also got off to a slow start as a rookie but was picking it up by the end of the season. The Cowboys are hoping that both youngsters will build on those signs of improvement in 2021 and perhaps be even better thanks to the shift in scheme and coordination under Dan Quinn.

Dallas may also be planning to add some help by giving someone a second chance.

Gerald McCoy
Free Agent DT Gerald McCoy

It’s been reported that despite Gerald McCoy’s injury last year and the hardball approach that Dallas took with his contract, both parties are interested in running it back in 2021. While McCoy may not be a Pro Bowler anymore, his presence in the rotation and as a mentor to the young prospects could be valuable.

The Cowboys could also bring back Antwaun Woods at low cost for a single year as he’s a restricted free agent. While never flashy, Woods has been the team’s most consistent DT for a few years and has proven he can play multiple roles.

Upgrading this position through free agency or the draft won’t be easy. With the exception of maybe signing veteran Ndamukong Suh, it’s hard to say any plays available would be clear upgrades over current talent. But that is also assuming Gallimore and Hill continue to grow as players and you have no guarantee there, either.

There are only handful of truly great defensive tackles out there who can impact games regardless of surrounding cast or scheme. There are 31 teams in the NFL who wish they had Aaron Donald and only a few more with interior defensive linemen that are clear stars at their positions.

Again, this is where Dan Quinn comes into play.  Dallas is hoping he can create a scheme that makes everyone shine like in his “Legion of Boom” days in Seattle. If that happens then a foursome of Gallimore, Hill, McCoy, and Woods could be enough to solidify the DT position for 2021.

How the Cowboys handle defensive tackle this offseason depends largely on their faith in the young guys. Hopefully, they’ve done a good job of assessing their performance and projecting the future.

~ ~ ~

Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews

QB | RB | WR | TE | OT | C | G

DE | LB | CB | S

Special Teams

(Click the position above to jump to article. Links will become active as articles are published.)

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. Forget McCoy. He’s a player on the decline. If anything, bring back Woods because, as the article states, he was the most consistent of the group. Stop the nonsense of overpaying players, ala Ezekiel Elliot, and you would have more than enough money to get quality free agents instead of dumpster diving looking for Brady gold under a pile of garbage. You do not want to spend valuable cap resources on players on the decline to be “mentors.” The job of a coach is to mentor younger players. The Cowboys are several years and 5-6 excellent players on defense away from competing for championships. Unless he is an extraordinary athlete and player, break this awful habit of dumpster diving. There is a reason these players haven’t been signed by others. Teams want the best years out of players, not the years where their skills are declining. That was the mentality of Coach Walsh with the 49ers. Seemed that mentality served him well as he hoisted the Lombardi trophy several times. If you want to win championships, you follow the lead and example of what champions do.

  2. I heard an interview of Randy Cross, Center of the multiple World Champion 49ers teams. Now, this is paraphrasing but Walsh told him to the effect “Randy, you are going to have a long, great career but I only want the first 4-6 years of it. You’re still going to be able to play but I only want your best years of football.” Maybe that’s not the exact words but it holds the same meaning. Getting guys who’s best years are behind them and are experiencing more time away from the field due to injuries and giving them a three year contract, I.e. McCoy, is not good general managing of a team. Getting players on one year deals on a “prove it” deal is not good. If they suck, then there is no benefit and you tied up resources in them. If they have a good year, they move on for more lucrative deals and leave you in the same situation you were in to begin with. That crazy money deal with a running back should have NEVER happened. The crazy money given to the defensive end, edge or whatever you want to call him should have never happened. The money given to Cooper, who I like and is a class act, should have never happened. A new deal for an oft injured left tackle should not happen. Honestly, a deal with Dak should not happen at this point because of the money involved and the gross mismanagement of other contracts making this team a non factor for years to come. They would do better to keep Dalton or acquire a serviceable free agent QB at a lower cost and draft a new prospect. Hit the reset button. This isn’t a case of a Super Bowl window closing because it was never open to begin with. I love my Cowboys. Been a fan for 40+ years but I’m not so blind to be a homer. I crave a championship for us but there is a lot that has to be done, and undone, for that to happen. Making players “the highest paid” at their position strokes their egos and sets them for life. Then, the underperforming begins for a lot of them. They got their money haul.

  3. Stephen Gregory- Good post and I agree with much of what you said. But Dak is 27 and his prime years will be the next 4-5. With it being the most important position on the field that seems like a good investment even if you have to overpay for him a little.

    By the way the cowboys will have more FA money then people realize. They can judiciously restructure a few contracts for those players that are expected to continue being productive down the road and even cut a few of the lower rent players. Also they have an out with Cooper after next year if they so chose. They have options in that regard if our OWNER/GM/COACH can make the right moves.

  4. I feel as if Dallas will sign McCoy and bring Woods back on a cheap deal. I still feel like this team needs a true run stuffing DT. In the draft guys like Jordon Scott of Oregon and Dion Novil of North Texas are potential steals. Big Bodied DTs who are just getting started unlike Dontari Poe

  5. I feel that my Cowboys have ALWAYS not spent much time & money on the DT & Safety positions and that has hurt our Def for years and then give Tank a contract that yeah he is good but hasn’t shown the stellar performance he did before his contract. I feel what should be done is don’t sign anybody except Dak to any big money contracts next year and then cut cooper sign Gallup and have him and Cee Dee as your 1/2. Then cut Zeke then or the next yr whichever creates the less dead money. We need players that want to compete for a SB not be the highest paid at there position. We have handicapped the team by giving to much money to players that want just that, be the highest paid not the best player and teammate and win multiple championships! Sad really because if we would’ve had a coach and Def Coordinator back win Romo was QB we could’ve won multiple just my opinion!!

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