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.
2021 Defensive Tackle Contract Statuses
- Neville Gallimore
- Justin Hamilton
- Trysten Hill
- Walter Palmore
- Free Agents
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights
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.
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.
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.
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Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews
DE | LB | CB | S
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