Looking back over the history of the NFC East, some of the greatest pass rushers to ever play the game have plied their trade within the BEast. Names like DeMarcus Ware, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White have all made appearances in the nightmares of opposing passers. When the NFC East dominates football, that dominance always seems to begin with a pass rush. That thought got me to thinking, could Dallas find at least a short-term answer to its pass rushing woes by looking inside their own division.
There are a couple possible options that the Dallas Cowboys might consider. The best, but also most costly, solution would be to take a long hard look at the Philadelphia Eagles OLB Brandon Graham. Signing Graham would not only strengthen the Cowboys pass rush, it would also weaken a divisional foe. Granted Dallas no longer runs a 3-4 defensive scheme, but the Philly OLB is not a fan of dropping back in coverage. Graham is a pass rusher first and a run defender second. A move to 4-3 defensive end would fit nicely into his game.
Our SBN colleagues at BGN have good things to say about Graham, most of them want the Eagles to re-sign him for the upcoming season. He topped Pro Football Focus' 2014 list for pass rushing productivity, recording 51 pressures on just 225 pass rushing attempts. He also finished fourth overall in PFF's run stop percentage for the season. He achieved these numbers but still only saw limited action behind guys like Connor Barwin. Now the former first-round selection is looking for someplace where he will be used more frequently. He wants to play some football.
The problem is that Graham is looking for the kind of money that guys like Tamba Hali, Clay Matthews, and Paul Krueger make. The Eagles do not seem ready to cough up that kind of cash for someone who has not proven himself to be a starter. Enter opportunity stage right. There will be a market for the services of Mr. Graham, although it will not likely reach the level that he wants. The Dallas Cowboys will have the option of putting in a reasonable offer for his talents once free agency opens next week. Brandon Graham, if he chooses to come to Dallas, will have the opportunity to play for a contending team, make a decent salary, and will be given every opportunity to become the team's pass rushing specialist. He would be a great fit at Valley Ranch, provided he understands the economic realities of his situation.
The second option that the team may consider is a stop-gap. Long time Washington Redskins pass rusher Brian Orakpo is also on the open market. The former first-round draft pick has been slowed by injuries recently but could compete as a pass-rush specialist if healthy.
A move to being a situational guy would allow him to minimize the wear and tear on his body while still having an impact on a defense. Orakpo, too, would have to make the transition to playing with his hand on the ground. For Brian, coming to Dallas would not only put him in position to finish out his career with a contending team, it would also mean a return to Texas. He played his college ball for the Longhorns.
If the team is looking to bring in their next pass rusher through the draft, having Orakpo around to serve as both mentor and as a stop gap could present an intriguing option. Should the 'Boys be able to negotiate a reasonable salary package, it could turn into one of those win-win situations that everyone talks about but that we so rarely see.
One thing is for certain, Dallas will need to address the lack of pass rush. There are many options available to the front office. Given the recent success that the Cowboys brain-trust has experienced it is reasonable to presume that they are considering many options. Anything written in the media remains speculation at this point but soon we may know. Free agency opens soon and the draft is not far behind. All we can do is speculate, which is something we do quite well here at Blogging The Boys. It beats sitting around waiting to see what will happen.