With the recent news of the Rolando McClain suspension, the Cowboys find themselves on the prowl for a viable option at linebacker. Whether they find that in a player that’s already on the roster or have to look elsewhere, the team needs to find someone to take McClain’s snaps. As we discussed earlier, one player could be a potential find.
The Detroit Lions released veteran linebacker Stephen Tulloch on Tuesday in order to free up cap space. Tulloch was due a $5.5 million base salary this season that the Lions are no longer responsible for. This was purely a financial decision and not a reflection of anything negative towards Tulloch. In fact, his coach speaks highly of him.
"As I have said numerous times since I became head coach of the Lions, Stephen Tulloch has been a consummate professional on and off the field," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said in a statement.
A consummate professional. That has a good ring to it. Players like that tend to be available when the team calls upon them. In fact, Tulloch has been extremely reliable during his career. The 31-year old LB has been a fixture in the Lions defense over the years. Here are his tackle totals over the last seven seasons:
In 2014, he only played three games after he suffered a torn ACL against the Green Bay Packers. Of course, he didn’t go down in the most flattering way as he hurt himself after celebrating a sack against Aaron Rodgers.
As embarrassing as that was, Tulloch returned to the field and played well last season, playing in 15 games and recording 108 tackles.
Tulloch isn’t very effective in coverage, but he’s a strong run stopping linebacker. He graded out in the top 25 of all LBs last season with an 84.3 PFF grade. This puts him right there with Navorro Bowman and last year’s rookie LB prospect Eric Kendricks. Tulloch led the Lions in tackles last season in a two-down role.
The Cowboys are holding their breath that they will have a star caliber linebacker ready to go in 2017 when Jaylon Smith returns from his knee injury. With Rolando McClain not in the mix for at least the first ten games, the Cowboys could really use a linebacker to temporarily fill in. The front office doesn’t typically show a lot of interest in older free agents, but this could be a special case. The defense just needs some extra help to get through the upcoming season so even if Tulloch didn’t have a lot of gas left in the tank to be a long-term contributor, he could still be a valuable asset to the team.
The Cowboys are no stranger to poaching linebackers from Detroit as they signed veteran Justin Durant in 2013. Durant played well for Dallas, but had trouble staying healthy and missed half of his total games during his two-year stint with the team.
The Lions had planned for Tulloch to be a cap casualty all along, but needed him to pass a physical before they could cut him in order to avoid an injury settlement. He had off-season arthroscopic ankle surgery, but it will have no impact on his ability to play this upcoming season.
Tulloch said he has no injury issues & intends to play somewhere in 2016. Said the last few months haven't soured him on his time in Detroit— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) June 9, 2016
What do you think of Tulloch? If the Cowboys could get him for a good price, he could be add some depth at the linebacker position. And since many people don't think there will be a lot of reasons to celebrate on defense, Tulloch could be a lot safer in Dallas.