This year’s draft class is going to be strong in all the places the Cowboys need it to be. However, last offseason the Cowboys could have helped themselves if they would have at least kicked the tires on a free agent rusher with a bit of pedigree. We have established over and over again that there is a method to how this front office operates.
The world of free agency isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. It’s kind of a crapshoot. Some teams like the 2016 New York Giants are able to make a few splashy moves and it works out but every story like that, there are three or four that completely backfire.
Stephen Jones has been very vocal about wanting to upgrade the defense this offseason and that most certainly will see the bulk of it’s remodeling in the draft. With that said, the Dallas Cowboys don’t have to be big spenders to make a difference. There are some affordable acquisitions to be made. Take, for instance, the Detroit Lions’ Devin Taylor.
DE Devin Taylor, 27, Detroit Lions, 6’7, 275 lbs
Taylor, the once Second-Team All-SEC Gamecock’s defensive end, was selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s spent his entire four-season career with the Detroit Lions who got him at 132nd overall. He was a fine player at South Carolina but often with big guys like himself, it’s hard to figure where their best position will be in the pros.
When he got to Detroit, they kept him out at defensive end to develop him into a consistent pass rusher. In his rookie season, he appeared in 14 games, starting two of them. Though he was a bit raw at the position he was able to make an impact when he was on the field. He snagged 14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles as well as a batted pass at the line.
The next two seasons, he was brought off the bench and never started a game. 2014 was a down year for Taylor who only has 15 tackles and one sack but he was having a hard time getting playing time as the Lions’ defense was rolling behind Ziggy Ansah and Ndamukong Suh who had 8.5 and 7.5 sacks respectively. Taylor was buried behind a few guys that season.
2015 was a new year that saw Suh go to the Dolphins on a $100 million blockbuster deal. This would prove to be a pretty solid year for Taylor, who appeared in all 16 games and upped his tackles to 35 and his sacks to 7 despite not starting a single game. Taylor also had a forced fumble and deflected a pass too. The hope was that he would be ready for a huge step in 2016 but that never came to fruition. Though he started all 16 games, the Lions’ defense struggled for the majority of the season. Taylor only managed 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, a safety and a forced fumble.
Though the Lions were certainly hoping for Taylor to build upon his 2015 season, it’s important to note that Benson Mayowa led the entire Cowboys’ defense during the regular season with just 6 sacks. The best part about Taylor is that he is still very young and has the size comparable to another Cowboys’ lineman, David Irving. Dallas is most likely going to go after pass rushers in the draft but a veteran with upside like Taylor shouldn’t be overlooked. With the focus on bettering the rotation, what’s the harm in taking a chance on a young guy?