The Dallas Cowboys finally made a splash in free agency with the announcement of the future signing of former Detroit Lion linebacker, Justin Durant. Although he has agreed in principle to a two-year contract, Durant can not be officially signed to the team until the cap-stricken Cowboys can clear enough salary cap space to do so. His signing will “sure-up” the linebacker core in preparation for the upcoming switch the 4-3 defense this season. It also most likely eliminates any possibility that the Cowboys would sign former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher.
As the newest Cowboy, here are five things every Dallas fan should know about Justin Durant.
#1: Durant was a second round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007. While in Florida, Durant was largely overshadowed by linebackers Daryl Smith and Mike Peterson. When Peterson was released a couple years later due to a verbal altercation with then Coach Jack Del Rio, Durant stepped up and excelled in the starting middle linebacker role. He finished that season, his third, with 98 tackles in just 13 games.
#2: While in Detroit, Durant posted two solid seasons. He recorded 171 tackles in those two years, racking up 103 total tackles in 14 games last season. Initial indications were that the Lions did not want to lose Durant, but had to make a financial choice between him and linebacker DeAndre Levy. The Lions signed Levy to a new three year deal earlier this month. Lion’s head coach Jim Swartz stated that he liked the young talent among his current linebacker corps.
#3: Durant played outside linebacker in the 4-3 defensive scheme while in the Motor City. The Cowboys recently hired defensive legend Monte Kiffin to switch their defensive from the 3-4 to the 4-3. Not only does Durant have experience in this scheme, but he has also started 60 of his 79 career games during his six year career. Considered to be a strong run defender with a ton of speed, Durant is only 27 years old and in his prime.
#4: The Durant signing mirrors the Dan Connor signing of last season. Durant’s signing appears to be insurance in case 1.) linebacker Bruce Carter struggles in returning from injury and/or 2.) Kyle Wilber and Alex Albright are not able to win the starting job. The Connor signing proved to be beneficial last year as many of the Cowboys defensive players suffered season-ending injuries. The Cowboys recently released Connor and he quickly signed with the New York Giants.
#5: Durant made $3.625 million last season. Despite having a career season last year, the demand for Durant in free agency was lack-luster. Still, it would be hard to imagine him taking a large pay-cut to play for the Cowboys this season. With Dallas currently sitting around $102,000 under the salary cap, the Cowboy’s front office will have to make some major moves in-order to sign Durant to anything even close to what he received last season. Even with this move, Dallas has still not addressed their three more pressing positional needs: offensive line, defensive line and safety.