A certain Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman has enjoyed protected status, but that may change with the addition of Christian Covington.
The Dallas Cowboys coaches often cite position flex when defending players in question. This certainly applies to defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford and his combined $19.45 million cap hit the last two seasons.
Crawford’s cost has exceeded $2 million per sack when considering the 9.5 sacks he’s accumulated over a two year period. He’s not worth over $9 million a year solely as an end. And he surely has nowhere near that value purely at tackle.
However, as a player with true position flex that can respectfully start inside or out as requested, there is reasonable justification for his high price tag.
THE VALUE OF VERSATILITY
Let’s analyze that price tag for a moment to gain perspective. In 2019, Crawford will be the Cowboys second most expensive defensive lineman at $10.1 million. His cost will only be $1 million short of DeMarcus Lawrence who just signed a mega deal.
Aside from Lawrence, Crawford, and Robert Quinn, the other 11 defensive linemen under contract have a total 2019 cost of $12.5 million. After final roster cuts, Crawford will likely cost more than the last seven defensive linemen combined.
While Crawford is a sturdy player at tackle and end, it’s been his unique mastery of starting caliber position flex that’s kept his cost tolerable.
NEW SWISS ARMY KNIFE
The last two seasons Crawford has been off-limits as no other defensive linemen possessed his rare ability to handle both spots without a drop-off. The same would have applied to 2019 until Christian Covington signed in free agency.
Dallas added Covington to disrupt the interior, but he’s no one trick pony. Just like Crawford’s rookie year in Dallas, Covington has significant experience at 3-4 defensive end. In four starts and under 500 snaps combined the last two seasons, Covington had more sacks (4.5) than any Texans defensive end not named J.J. Watt.
Assumed to be a better fit in the Cowboys 4-3 defense, Covington could make his fellow Canadian expendable if he shows similar versatility. Releasing Crawford after June 1st would shave $7 million off the 2019 cap and another $8 million in 2020.
Crawford is under contract through 2020 while his challenger becomes a free agent. Though Covington could be re-signed for much less than Crawford’s 2020 cap savings. Let’s also not forget, at 25 years old, the new guy is four years younger.
In August, Covington must display position flex at a level worthy of a shakeup. But for now, Crawford finally has legitimate competition threatening his protected flex role.