After striking out on top free agent defensive ends, will the Dallas Cowboys consider re-signing defensive end Greg Hardy?
In the months following the Dallas Cowboy’s disastrous 2015 season it has been made clear that the team did not appreciate the presence of defensive end Greg Hardy in the locker room. After taking a one-year flier on the troubled former Pro Bowler who missed all but one game in 2014 while dealing with a domestic violence charge, the Cowboys have given no indication that the team is interested in bringing the 27-year-old veteran back for another season.
In fact, the Dallas Morning News is reporting that Hardy has had no visits with any team, including the Cowboys during the first week of free agency. Given the baggage Hardy carries and the fact that he recorded only 35 tackles and six sacks in 12 games last year, this news comes as no surprise.
However, the free agent defensive end market is quickly drying up. The Dallas Cowboys were reported to be interested in a number of available defensive ends when the NFL signing period began but almost all of those players have inked lucrative deals that the Cowboys were not willing to match.
The prize free agent defensive end in 2016 was Olivier Vernon who signed with the New York Giants for five years and $85 million with $52.5 million guaranteed. In addition, 31-year-old former No. 1 overall draft pick, defensive end Mario Williams signed with Vernon’s former team, the Miami Dolphins for two years and $17 million (though incentives could push the deal to as much as $20 million).
With the two premier available defensive ends off the board, Dallas then turned to bargain shopping. It was rumored that free agent defensive end Chris Long, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Rams, was set to visit with the Cowboys.
But on Tuesday, Long agreed to a one-year deal with the New England Patriots which he announcement via his twitter account.
Now, shopping for a defensive end in the NFL is akin to digging through the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart hoping to find a Steven Seagal movie from the 1990’s. The best available players are guys like 12th-year pro Jason Babin, Jared Crick (who has 5.5 sacks in 63 career games), Vinny Curry or Larry English.
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None of these players are going likely to be more than roster fillers in 2016 making it logical for Dallas to once ponder the Greg Hardy experiment. Though head coach Jason Garrett is not a fan of Hardy, Cowboys’ owner and general manager Jerry Jones has a history of signing controversial players despite the wishes of his head coach.
If Jones was willing to sign mercurial wide receiver Terrell Owens against the will of Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells in 2006, it should not surprise anyone should Jones become desperate and bring Hardy back for 2016. Jones has made it clear that he intends to do everything he can to win a Super Bowl in the next few years while starting quarterback Tony Romo is still playing.
While the Cowboys are likely to draft Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa with pick No. 4 in next month’s NFL Draft, rookie pass rushers take time to develop. Meaning that Bosa may not reach his full potential until after the Romo window has closed. Meanwhile, Greg Hardy has already proven that he can be an elite pass rusher by recording seasons of 11 and 15 sacks in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Jerry Jones has far too often acted out of desperation. With second-year defensive end Randy Gregory suspended four games for marijuana use and 2015 team sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence coming off of off season back surgery, Jones’ team is most certainly in dire straits at the pass rush positions on defense.
Is Greg Hardy a huge risk? There is no question. Does Jason Garrett Want Greg Hardy back in 2016? Most likely, he does not.
But now, that there are fewer options available for the Dallas Cowboys to improve the defensive line, the organization may be more likely to give Hardy one last opportunity to regain his Pro Bowl form of three years ago. He will command very little money, something that the Cowboys seem to value in free agents but will the team be willing to dance with the devil once again for the sake of winning?