The Cowboys have already started making free agency progress with their own talents such as Cole Beasley and Doug Free. Come Tuesday, the real show begins. Though Dallas may not be interested in the bidding wars at the beginning, the days following will certainly be their time to go-to-work. Jabaal Sheard is a under-the-radar signing that could help Dallas move in the right direction.
Jabaal Sheard entered college as the 23rd ranked defensive end in the nation out of Hollywood Hills, where he recorded 54 tackles and 11 sacks in his senior season. Sheard would end up committing to Pittsburgh where he was often undervalued. He single-handedly took over in a game against Notre Dame. Sheard harassed Jimmy Clausen with a sack, a pass breakup, four hurries and seven hits.
Coincidentally, Sheard blew-up tackle Sam Young (drafted by Dallas) countless times on his defensive MVP performance. Sheard was described as a speedy-rusher that had the ability to become small when turning the corner. Pitt would end up leading the nation in sacks in Sheard's junior year, where he was mainly overshadowed by Greg Romeus, who is no longer in the league.
Sheard was suspended indefinitely in July of 2010, stemming from an off-campus brawl ending in his arrest. He would later be invited back to the team after his charge was determined a misdemeanor and Sheard paid restitution fines for injuries during the fight. Sheard would earn First-Team All-American Honors according to the American Football Coaches Association in 2010 as well as becoming a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award.
Jabaal would enter the 2011 NFL Draft, where he was taken 37th overall by the Cleveland Browns. Sheard started all 16 games of his rookie season and had stellar results. He would lead the Browns in sacks with nine and forced fumbles with five. He was voted to the All-Rookie Team that year as well. His second year was decent too. Once again, Sheard started all 16 games and recorded seven sacks, 38 tackles and forced 38 negative plays.
In 2013, The Cleveland Browns moved into a 3-4 scheme and Sheard was converted to outside linebacker. It was not his natural placement though he still provided six sacks, Jabaal would miss four games that season with various injuries. 2014 is a season that Sheard may want to forget as he was almost phased out of the defense by Pettine and crew.
This past season, Sheard was primarily used as a backup and only had two sacks, though he still graded positively by PFF and ranked 16th overall with a +8.2 grade. Sheard is likely to test his value on the open market and would be a slam-dunk for the Dallas Cowboys. After being used in a limited role, Sheard will be looking for more action and would make sense to return to a 4-3 scheme.
I love the idea of getting a defensive end with past production that may be feeling a little disrespected by his own club. He would likely not command high-dollars due to the amount of bigger fish headed for the open market. Signing an end will set the Cowboys up very nicely and if Sheard is still around day two or three; I'm calling the young man, who'll be 26 in May.
The Cowboys have done a nice job over the years finding guys with high draft statuses and giving them a chance to shine in Big D. Much like Mincey and Selvie of year's past; Jabaal Sheard could go a long way in helping shore up that defensive line.