The Dallas Cowboys have several big decisions to make this offseason. Here’s why re-signing linebacker Anthony Hitchens should be one of them.
The 6-6 Dallas Cowboys have four games left in the 2017 regular season. And they’ll likely have to win every single contest in order to even have a chance at a playoff berth in the Wild Card round. One more loss, and the Cowboys focus may have to turn to the offseason.
The Cowboys brass will have several big decisions to make in the new year. One of the first being which of their various free agents they’ll need to re-sign. Earlier this year, Dallas elected to allow a majority of their defensive secondary to leave via free agency. Names like safety Barry Church and starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have all found success elsewhere in 2017.
It’s likely a decision the Cowboys regretted at times this season, as they choose to field rookies and more inexperienced players in their place. Dallas has certainly suffered through a youth movement this year.
This upcoming offseason, similar decisions will have to be made concerning veterans like defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who currently leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks. Other players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents include offensive guard Jonathan Cooper, wide receiver Brice Butler and linebacker Kyle Wilber.
Although names like Lawrence, Irving and Martin are all expected to be retained, I’d like to add another upcoming free agent to that list for Dallas: Linebacker Anthony Hitchens. The former fourth rounder out of Iowa might be deemed expendable with the expected rise of Jaylon Smith. But I believe it’s important that the Cowboys keep their trio of talented linebackers together.
Hitchens has been terrific stepping in for an injured Sean Lee this season. He’s recorded 58 total tackles in eight games. (That’s a 116 tackle season if he played all 16 games) And when both Lee and “Hitch” have been on the field together, which admittedly hasn’t been often this year, they could be the top linebacker duo in the entire NFL.
But by investing a high second round in Smith back in 2016, Dallas seemed to imply that Hitchens’ time in Dallas was limited. But I’ll argue that it was Lee the Cowboys were more worried about.
As this season has shown us once again, Lee is prone to injury, having now missed five games due to a hamstring issue. And the fact he’ll be 32 years old before the start of next season should be a big concern. Smith is also coming off a major knee injury, one he suffered in college that included nerve damage. Although Jaylon has defied expectations this season, his future also has to be worrisome on some level.
With those injuries in mind, and based on the year he is having, I believe re-signing Anthony Hitchens this upcoming offseason is a no-brainer for the Dallas Cowboys. Keeping Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith and Hitchens on their linebacker corps is a must.