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Cowboys 2017 Free Agency Focus: Jabaal Sheard Has Been Quite Active In New England

He's been quite active in New England, could he be an affordable addition to the rushmen?

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys pass rush really came on strong by season's end having managed to rack up 19 sacks in their final five games. With that said, they still had some issues putting consistent pressure on quarterbacks this season. It was evident in this last defeat that the pass rush is still a work-in-progress for the Cowboys and free agency may be a spot to look for help.

Under Stephen Jones and Will McClay, we have learned that free agency isn't nearly as important to them as the NFL Draft. However, they have found diamonds in the rough in the past and they do still value free agency as a way to set up their drafts. Last offseason, the front office preferred to let the young guys play without trying to replace the Greg Hardy's of the world. In many ways, that process worked but there is a solid chance that they will participate more in free agency this offseason than last year due to their large number of in-house free agents.

Most assuredly, the Cowboys will look inside first to retain guys that they like but there will be some names that hit the market that could be potential upgrades over what they have. The first free agent we're going to focus on is a guy that we looked at following the 2014 season.

DE Jabaal Sheard, 28, 6'3, 265 lbs, Patriots

Two seasons ago, Sheard was departing the Cleveland Browns looking for employment when the savvy New England Patriots scooped him up. If you remember, we actually did a write-up on him at that time and he very much fits the type of free agent this team typically looks at. Let's refresh our memory a bit on Sheard and then focus on what he's accomplished in his time with the Patriots.

Sheard was drafted by the Browns with the 37th-overall pick in the 2011 Draft. In his rookie season, he led the team with 8.5 sacks, starting all 16 games, and was also selected to Pro Football Weekly's All-Rookie team. Sheard was also able to force five fumbles in his rookie campaign. Sheard followed 2011 with 16 starts, 7 sacks, and 36 tackles in 2012. Though he missed three games in 2013, he still managed 5.5 sacks and 19 tackles that season. He again started all 16 games in 2014 with 44 combined tackles but his sack number dipped to only two for the season.

Still, the New England Patriots saw enough of him to sign him to a two-year, $11 million contract for a role in their opportunistic defense. He certainly did not disappoint, collecting four sacks in his first four games. He finished that season with 8 sacks, 37 tackles,  four forced fumbles, and even two batted down passes. This season saw Sheard be thrust into the starting role after Chandler Jones was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. Though he only recorded five sacks in the regular season, he notched another 30 tackles and forced four more fumbles. As we speak, Sheard is gearing up for an AFC Championship date with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

By the beginning of free agency, Sheard could very well find himself a Super Bowl Champion. Sheard isn't the type of guy that's going to command big money on the open market and if New England doesn't re-sign him, he would be a solid player for the Cowboys' rotation. Though there are doubts about how the information is gathered, PFF has graded him the 39th best edge rusher in the league in 2016, which also counts linebackers. Over the past two seasons, his grade has been well over the 80 mark. At 28, he's still got plenty of juice left and could bring some veteran leadership to a young group of linemen.

Should the Cowboys be in the market for a veteran pass rusher, Sheard makes sense and it still wouldn't be a signing that kept them from taking a pass rusher at 28, should they go that route.

As always, we let the BTB community decide what to make of these profiles. What do you think, still have some interest in Jabaal Sheard two seasons later?

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