Dallas Cowboys 2019 free agency primer: Defensive Line

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: DeMarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a 38-14 win over the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on November 30, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

In this sixth installment of my free agency primer series, we will move on to the defense and see how Dallas Cowboys might improve their defensive line.

For the past three weeks, I have looked into possibilities of free agent signings for the offensive side of the ball. After completing that task Sunday, it’s time to turn our attention to the defense.

Last season, the Dallas Cowboys took a major leap forward defensively.

For the first time since 2009, Dallas finished in the top ten in both yards and points allowed. Thanks to some big time players on each line of the defense, Dallas was able to lean on the defense at times until the offense was fortified by the Amari Cooper trade.

Ironically, as the Cowboys look towards 2019, there are significant money moves that need to be made at each level of the defense.

Today we will address the defensive line. In order to do so, let’s take a look at who is signed for the upcoming season and some notable free agent options.

The depth chart

Tyrone Crawford signed through 2020
Maliek Collins signed through 2019
Antwaun Woods signed through 2019
Randy Gregory signed through 2019
Taco Charlton signed through 2021
Dorance Armstrong signed through 2021
Aziz Shittu signed through 2020

2019 notable free agent defensive linemen

DE DeMarcus Lawrence
DE Aaron Lynch
DE Markus Golden
DE Trey Flowers
DT Corey Liuget
DT Bennie Logan
DT Ethan Westbrooks
DT Johnathan Hankins
DT Caraun Reid
DT Carl Davis
DT Danny Shelton
DT Jordan Phillips
DT Grady Jarrett
DT Malcom Brown

Without question, priority number one this offseason is to lock up DeMarcus Lawrence to a long-term deal. With 25 sacks over the past two seasons, it’s imperative that Dallas does not mess around with the soon-to-be 27 year old quarterback killer.

The Cowboys are armed with the franchise tag, if need be, but that’s a risky proposition these days. If you don’t believe, go ask Pittsburgh how tagging someone in consecutive years works.

One way or another, Lawrence should be in the fold for 2019. As for the rest of the guys on the list above, I chose to list realistic, lower profile options that fit the ideas of what this team is trying to do.

With five (including Lawrence) defensive ends, it may be highly likely that the Cowboys do not add a second free agent. If they choose to do so, however, Golden, Lynch and Flowers are all intriguing.

Golden had a 12.5 sack season in 2016 so talent is not the question. His play has dropped off of late after an ACL injury robbed him of most of the 2017 season but he could come cheap. Golden has never made more than $1M in any given year and an incentive-laden deal might give him the drive to replicate his “golden” year.

Flowers, on the other hand, may be out of the Cowboys price range. After three straight seasons of seven, six and a half and seven and a half sacks, the 25-year old may be ready to break the bank. In addition, his affiliation with New England is also likely to drive up his price as everyone seems to overpay for champions.

Lastly, Lynch another 25-year old, represents the void in between the other two players. After starting out his career with 12.5 sacks in two seasons, he had two seasons where he sort of disappeared. Lynch experienced a resurgence of sorts last season going from San Francisco to Chicago and posting three sacks, eight quarterback hits and four tackles for loss in limited time.

Beyond the guys you count on to get the quarterback, there are those interior linemen who are just as necessary. This position may represent one of the Cowboys biggest needs heading into 2019 and there are some interesting veteran options available.

The free agent pool is comprised of some former high draft picks who have not really materialized and some older, bigger name veterans looking to prove they still have what it takes.

The crown jewel is without question Jarrett. Turning just 26 as the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, Jarrett has 23 tackles for loss, 29 quarterback hits and 10 sacks in his last two seasons. You can expect a significant raise coming his way from the $1.9M he banked in 2018. Sadly, he too will likely be out of the Cowboys price range.

One guy who could be affordable for the Dallas Cowboys however would be Danny Shelton. It’s rare that someone picked 12th overall could be on his third team in just five years but if Shelton finds a new home in 2019, that will be his distinction.

Pairing him with Rod Marinelli may be exactly what the former first round pick would need to rekindle his career. Dallas could use a big body in the middle to help defend the run as well. Would a two-year deal, worth $3-4M per be equitable for both sides?

If Dallas does not choose to bolster their line via free agency, they will certainly be looking to do so early in the draft. The value that the Cowboys place on these available players will tip their hand as to how they will address their obvious void for help in the middle of their line.

dark. Next. Dallas Cowboys: 5 Best Free Agent Signings Of All Time

Personally, I would go after Shelton or Malcom Brown for that $3M per year range and maybe try to get Golden on a one-year, prove it deal. In today’s NFL, you can never have enough depth or talent along your defensive line.