The Dallas Cowboys' defense underperformed in 2015 in a couple of important areas - creating turnovers and getting to the quarterback. Despite the additions of Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory, as well as the developments of DeMarcus Lawrence and Jack Crawford, the Cowboys were shredded at times in the season. For that not to be the case, the Cowboys will need to upgrade their pass rush. But that's going to be hard to do in 2016 as the Cowboys could be without Gregory and Hardy.
On Saturday, Gregory was suspended four games due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Gregory suffered with a drug problem during his time at Nebraska. Despite being a top-ten talent in the 2015 NFL Draft, he slid to the Cowboys' second-round pick because of the problem as well as some questionable character concerns. With the position the Cowboys are in, drafting a defensive end like Joey Bosa or even Noah Spence makes a ton of sense, but it should be said that the Cowboys have other pressing needs and they shouldn't focus on a position that will need work for four games.
At some point in the draft, the Cowboys will surely add a defensive end or two, but cornerback and linebacker are two positions on the defensive side of the ball that need should be of more importance. As of now, it's hard to project who the Cowboys will select in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
That decision will be more clear when the Cowboys know what they're going to do with the Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne, and Rolando McClain. Carr could be designated as a post-June 1st cut and the Cowboys would immediately get around $9 million in the process. If that happens and the team doesn't re-sign Claiborne, the Cowboys could look to the draft to select a guy like Jalen Ramsey to upgrade the cornerback position.
Dallas will have a tough decision to make with McClain. At times, McClain looks like an elite player at the middle linebacker position. But there are also times where he looks unamused and not fully involved and invested into the game. McClain will command some attention in free agency, thanks to his potential as well as his ability to play a few different linebacker positions. However, because the Cowboys showed interest two years ago in McClain when no one else did, McClain could give the team a hometown discount.
Losing Gregory hurts in a variety of ways. Obviously it is problematic for the first four games of the season when he is not available. Also, because of his suspension, Gregory will not be able to practice with the team for the first four weeks of the regular season. Missing that time will mean that Rod Marinelli won't get that time to develop him in-season. Instead, Gregory will come back from the four-game suspension and be thrown right into the fire just about a month into the season.
Bosa would be an ideal fit in Dallas' 4-3 scheme, but there may be more pressing needs on this roster for the Cowboys to upgrade than defensive end. Dallas invested both of their last second-round picks on defensive ends, thus giving more reason why the Cowboys should look for an immediate fix in free agency rather than drafting a defensive end highly again. Some of the best-fit defensive ends in free agency are Mario Williams, Derrick Shelby, and Adrian Clayborn.