The Dallas Cowboys defensive line could be headed for a big overhaul. As a unit in 2019, they didn’t consistently perform to the level that was expected before the season got underway. It’s not like they didn’t have the bodies, but for whatever reason, their performance from week to week wasn’t always up to par, especially against the run.
Now, they have quite a long list of upcoming free agents that threaten to do serious damage to their depth chart along the defensive front.
Maliek Collins was looked at as possibly having a breakout year at the 3-technique in 2019, but that didn’t exactly happen. He only managed 20 total tackles in 16 games. Four of them went for sacks, which is a very good ratio, but averaging barely over a single tackle per game and one sack every four games I’m sure isn’t what Collins envisioned this season to be. However, he gets his first shot at testing the market for a bigger payday, and even with a disappointing season, he should have some suitors in March.
Michael Bennett and Kerry Hyder were all-purpose in the trenches, playing both defensive tackle and defensive end. The former restructured his deal a week after being traded from the New England Patriots to become a free agent, while the latter signed a one-year deal with the team last March. Bennett managed four sacks in nine games and showed there’s still plenty left in the tank not only rushing the passer but against the run as well. He’ll be one of the hardest to retain on the defensive front.
Hyder managed just 17 tackles for the season. He’ll probably be a little easier to bring back than the aforementioned Bennett, seeing as his price will be lower. It will just come down to if the Cowboys see him as a valuable piece under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Christian Covington played primarily on the interior and racked up 28 tackles and a sack, not too shabby for a guy in a backup role. This will be another player that if retained wouldn’t take much of a financial commitment.
Robert Quinn is the biggest name on the defensive line set to hit the open market. In 14 games, he led the team with 11.5 sacks and added 22 quarterback hits as well. Also, he had an amazing 14.5 tackles for loss. While speaking to Mike Fisher of Sports Illustrated, Quinn expressed he’d like to stay in Dallas with his football “brothers”. The Cowboys will definitely lobby to keep him, but his price tag won’t be small, especially with the nine-year veteran getting his first crack at free agency.
Antwaun Woods and Daniel Ross will also be free agents, with the former being an exclusive rights free agent, and the latter being of the restricted variety. Exclusive rights free agent is any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract and the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams. A restricted free agent can negotiate with any team. If he accepts an offer from another team, his old team has what they call “right of first refusal” which is a five-day period to match the offer and retain the player. They can also choose not to and let the player go elsewhere.
The Cowboys will have close to 100 million in cap space for 2020. They’ll have the means to keep a lot of players on their roster, but as well all know, no team keeps every free agent. The defensive line will definitely look different next season, now we wait to see who goes and who stays.
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