4 free agents who could make the Cowboys a playoff team

New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Giants defensive end Leonard Williams (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Dallas Cowboys, J.J. Watt
Houston Texans defensive end, J.J. Watt (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports) /

In recent years, the Dallas Cowboys have played it fairly conservative in free agency. Instead of overpaying for veteran talent, the Cowboys have often opted to use free agency to fill a few voids on their roster but primarily look to the draft to actually build their team.

The front office in Dallas has often avoided the big names on the open market and chosen instead to sign vets past their prime or free agents that can be had at a reduced rate at positions of need. Doing so allowed them to be more flexible in the draft, not having to reach for a prospect simply due to team need.

Minimizing the team’s salary cap space this offseason is the fact the Cowboys still need to retain their franchise quarterback in Dak Prescott, either by signing him to a long-term deal or franchise tagging him again. Throw in the expectation that the cap will take a significant hit due to the impact of the pandemic and Dallas doesn’t figure to be major players when free agency kicks off next month.

Yet, if the Cowboys are willing to do some significant financial gymnastics, perhaps they will be able to land a big name in free agency that could change the direction of the team. Specifically on the defensive side of the ball, which needs the most attention. With that in mind, here are four defensive free agents who could help make the Cowboys a playoff team if one of them is signed this offseason.

J.J. Watt, Defensive Lineman

Yes, former Houston Texans’ defensive lineman J.J. Watt is about to turn 32-years old. And yes, Watt has struggled with injuries over the past five years, missing a total of 32 games over that span.

Yet, those facts might actually make Watt a more feasible financial option for the Cowboys. That and the fact the long-time Texan defender may want to remain in the Lone Star State.

The three-time NFL Defensive Payer of the Year would be the perfect stabilizing force for this Cowboys defense. Watt posted a whopping 16.0 sacks in 2018, but only 9.0 total sacks since. Still, his 5.0 sacks in 2020 would have made him tied for second in Dallas last season.

Not only would Watt bring leadership to the locker room, but he’d give Dallas some security along a defensive line that fielded players plagued by previous suspensions in pivotal roles last year in defensive ends Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory. Watt would also be an excellent mentor and role model for young defensive linemen like Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, Dorance Armstrong, and Bradlee Anae. His presence could help turn the tide for this struggling defensive unit.