According to Calvin Watkins, the Dallas Cowboys have decided not to use the franchise tag on Jason Hatcher, who is the only player that they would likely consider this year. Hatcher, who turns 32 this year, seems clearly aware that this is his last chance to get a big paycheck.
"I'm going to get what I deserve and get what I'm worth," Hatcher said in late December. "Age don't matter. Whatever. If you ain't talking what I want, I don't want to talk to ‘em."
For what it is worth, I can't blame him. The window is certainly getting narrower for him. If he is able to get a nice payout, he deserves it.
The question is whether he can get that payout.
Joey Ickes laid out how the state of the market gives the Cowboys all the advantage in dealing with DeMarcus Ware. I went back and looked at that after I saw the report above, and I got to wondering just how good the market would be for Hatcher. Here is a list of the better free agent defensive tackles, based primarily on PFF scores, currently on the market. (Data in table taken from Spotrac. Ages are as of now, not the start of the season.)
While Hatcher's performance last season would place him in the top two or three players on this list, all the other listed players either had a plus score from PFF or will be coming back from injury.
There are a lot of pretty good options out there (and plenty of below average ones I did not list). Many are younger than Hatcher. Most of them would be cheaper than he would. There has to be some question as to just how much market there is going to be for his services.
Even if Dallas could afford to franchise him this season, it would probably be unwise. If the market is soft enough, he might be much more affordable than the franchise tag. Or Dallas may want to see if they can get a younger player off this list, someone who may not have Hatcher's credentials, but who should be more capable than most of the street free agents the Cowboys were trying to turn into rushmen last season.
It has been a fairly quiet offseason for Dallas so far. With a tight cap situation once again, the wait and see approach is probably the best. The most likely way things will play out for the Cowboys is that they will look to see who is still available when the draft is a good bit closer, and see if they can get a deal. Who knows, Jason Hatcher may still be on the market, and willing to take a bit less of a paycheck. It is not likely, perhaps, but stranger things have happened.
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