Getting drafted in the 3rd round by the Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, Jason Hatcher has come a long way. While being used in a supporting role most of his career providing defensive line depth, Hatcher’s game has elevated since resigning with the team in 2011. His modest 3 year $6 million deal expires at the conclusion of this season, but has been a coup for a team that has made numerous bad contract decisions in the recent past.
Hatcher will turn 32 this upcoming July, and is the wrong side of 30 in terms of NFL age. However, Hatcher’s game has aged like wine, and a team that is trying to fill the last few holes for a championship run may look to Hatcher as a last piece to the puzzle.
Hatcher has truly thrived this season in his switch from 3-4 defensive end to 4-3 defensive tackle. Hatcher was penciled into the 1 technique spot which is more of a run stuffer role, while Jay Ratliff was thought to be ready to play the 3 technique, which gets 1 on 1 match-ups in the center of the line. With Ratliff out due to lingering injury issues, Hatcher has slid perfectly into Ratliff’s 3 technique role amassing 9 tackles and 3 sacks in just three games.
While playing both tight end and defensive end in college, Hatcher has maintained much of his agility and athleticism which has allowed him to prosper inside.
During the offseason much criticism was directed the Cowboys way for a second consecutive 8-8 season. Jerry Jones made comments such as “it’s going to be uncomfortable at Valley Ranch”, and players were scrutinized in the media. Hatcher was asked “who” the leaders of the team were, to which he had no reply as there were no definite ones on the roster.
That has changed this season. With Hatchers improved play and more valuable role on this team, Hatcher has stepped up in the leadership department. Last week he gave an impassioned speech to the team to rise above mediocrity, and that to give your best every day and on every play. Reportedly, there was some tension between Hatcher and Tony Romo, where Hatcher got on Romo for audibling out of run plays into pass plays way too often. While numerous Cowboy sources shot this report down, Hatcher has definitely impressed with his increased presence in the locker room.
With the news of Anthony Spencer’s knee issues and upcoming procedure, Spencer (who was not expected back due to large offers he would receive in 2014) may come back on a low dollar short-term deal if no team comes through with a big offer. This could lead the team to work out some type of deal to keep Hatcher in the fold as well, since he has become such an influence on this team. Hatcher has never had a big payday, but reportedly loves playing in Dallas. This will be an interesting situation to follow in the upcoming months.
Follow Craig Cortemeglia on Twitter at @ccortemegliaTLH