There is really no way to look at the Cowboys' approach to filling the need at pass rusher this offseason and call it a success. Despite what folks think of Greg Hardy, he has left a gigantic hole in their defensive front. A hole that is not likely to be filled by a capable body, at least, not this offseason. Time has run out on them finding a free-agent veteran that can be of service and Randy Gregory has unfortunately made that problem even worse. So now, what can they do?
Not much, just as in every year, they will be dependent on the health of Tony Romo to keep the defense rested and ready to go. I say these things not to bring down everyone's mood, but to warn that getting excited about a potential pass rusher in the draft is not too wise. They just don't produce at the NFL level until they get a little seasoning and learn how to win against savvy offensive linemen.
In fact, there hasn't been a rookie since 2011 to produce double-digit sacks. This class looks to be light on good pass-rushers and none have the look of an elite talent at the position, at least, not yet. Joey Bosa is the closest thing to a complete pass rusher, but still, don't count on him being an elite edge rusher. At this point, they are only rumors, but the word is that the Cowboys were not too impressed with him. Again, this could all be a smokescreen, but this has been said of him by draft experts all offseason long. Sure, he could buck the trend, but the numbers aren't in his favor.
The Cowboys still lack talent there and they have to figure out a way to fix it, it just seems a little too late for 2016. I want to clarify that by saying that nobody around here is of the belief that the Cowboys needed to go frivolously spend money on free agent help. However, the front office needs to understand that they do not set the market on these free agents. They have to have some wiggle room in order to get a guy or two that they have targeted. It just seems as though last offseason they were willing to give Hardy that $13 million if he were to earn it. This year, they seem to have failed in both planning and execution. Some of the deals that were handed out to pass rushers like Mario Williams or Robert Ayers could have been done in Dallas. They just have the look of a team that wanted to practice fiscal restraint. That is all well and good if you have a plan and make it work. What is this plan? Right about now, it looks as though that plan is to rely heavily on the draft to put forth the answers. Spoiler alert...It won't.
The acquisition of Cedric Thornton is very underrated as it seems as though the Cowboys have finally decided to add some ability next to Tyrone Crawford. That really was the only way they were going to get the best out of him. They do have something to develop in David Irving, and they hope the same goes for newly signed Benson Mayowa. Yet, don't read too much into that signing as he is a situational guy at this point, not a penciled in starting end. They have DeMarcus Lawrence, who had eight sacks in 2015, and the hope is that he can finally step into that role of the premier pass rusher. What other choice do they really have?
Dallas needs a ton of help, not to mention that Lawrence is coming off herniated disk surgery. The Cowboys could choose to bring back Jack Crawford, but he seems more of a fit inside. So what can they do? Well, I recently wrote how the Cowboys were going to have to throw numbers at the problem. In that piece, I discussed how Dallas wasn't in love with any of the pass rushers for the fourth-overall pick, but could look again in the second round.
The more you look at this, the more you see a team that is going to have to address the position multiple times in the draft. That's not certain to fix it but they simply don't have much of a choice unless they going to rely on prayer to help them succeed in 2016. That's what could make a trade back look like a solid path to being able to add more depth. It's just truly not a good year to be picking at four and the Cowboys could very well never hear the phone ring. If that happens, then I'm afraid they try to sell their pick and that could be a big mistake. Teams that try and bail out of their pick tend to not get much in return because the buyer has all the leverage.
What is for certain is that like in 2014, the offense remaining healthy and humming is going to make all the difference for the lack of defense. Dallas will need to return to their dominant ways on the ground or all bets are off. They will also have to hope that they can have more luck in getting turnovers or again all bets are off. The only true way the Cowboys could hope for success is by following their 2005 method of building a defensive line in one draft. Then again, they have other needs as well, especially at cornerback and quarterback.
There is no true solution to the problem this season as they are likely to struggle in getting to the quarterback, but that's been the narrative for three to four years now. The obvious frustration stems from the stubbornness of not addressing this huge gaping problem. You can't blame them for washing their hands of Hardy. All you can really do is look at the way they have handled that and it shows that they plan on addressing it solely in the draft. Unfortunately for them, it's a bad year to need help at edge rusher.