The Dallas Cowboys would be wise to sign free agent defensive end Mario Williams to bolster the team’s putrid pass rush.
Because the Dallas Cowboys are desperate to add pass rushers to the roster this off season, do not be surprised when the team is linked in some way to almost every free agent defensive end on the market. The latest free agent rumored to be a serious option to land in Dallas is former Buffalo Bills’ defensive end Mario Williams.
Jack Windham of Inquisitir.com speculates that the 2006 No. 1 overall pick is interested in playing for the Cowboys because of the team’s 4-3 defensive scheme.
If the Cowboys do add Williams, he would instantly become the most accomplished pass rusher on the roster. The 31-year-old veteran has recorded 96.0 sacks in his 10 NFL seasons.
Unlike many free agents on the market, Williams was not released for performance reasons but because he did not fit well into the 3-4 defensive scheme of Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan. As a traditional 4-3 defensive end, Williams was never excited about Ryan’s defense and his numbers in 2015 reflected the misfit between player and scheme.
Last season, Williams recorded only five sacks (tied for the second lowest season total of his career and fewest since 2011 when he played in only five games). Yet, the Cowboys could find a bargain in the four-time Pro Bowler who has recorded over 10.0 sacks in half of his NFL seasons.
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If indeed the Cowboys are going to pass on resigning defensive end Greg Hardy, Williams would step in to become the starting defensive end opposite DeMarcus Lawrence. With second-year defensive end Randy Gregory suspended for the first four games of 2016, Dallas will need to add a player that can pressure the quarterback and by bringing Mario Williams on board the team would fill that need while also creating flexibility in next month’s NFL Draft.
Should the Dallas Cowboys not add a free agent pass rusher, the team may feel pigeon-holed into using the No. 4 pick in the draft on a defensive end. However, if Dallas is comfortable with the team’s pass rush any number of options will be available when the Cowboys pick in the first round.
Dallas could decide to draft a quarterback to groom as the replacement for starting quarterback Tony Romo, select Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey who electrified scouts at last weeks pre-draft combine or even trade down in the first round to acquire another top-60 pick.
The top defensive end in this year’s draft is Ohio State’s Joey Bosa who is less of a natural fit on the Cowboys’ roster than Williams would be. Bosa is more of a natural strong side defensive end, lining up on the right side of the offensive line rather than playing the weak side where quicker pass rushers are usually employed.
The issue for Dallas is that last season’s team leader in sacks, Lawrence, is already entrenched at the strong side defensive end. Selecting Bosa would not fill the hole left by the departure of Hardy and the suspension of Gregory but signing Williams would.
Plus, the franchise that is determined to win a Super Bowl in the immediate future would likely see more of an instant return on investment from the veteran Mario Williams. Last season, no rookie in the NFL recorded more than the eight sacks amassed by the Washington Redskins’ defensive end Preston Smith, illustrating that rookie pass rushers often struggle in their first professional season.
In all likelihood, the Dallas Cowboys will try to add to the defensive line through free agency and the NFL Draft so look for the team to be linked to numerous free agent and rookie defensive ends. Given the struggles of the 2015 Cowboys’ defense to get to the quarterback, signing Mario Williams would be a fantastic first step towards revamping one of the league’s worst pass rushes.