With the Cowboys still in playoff contention, it might be a little early to talk about next year's free agency. But this season, Cowboys fans have been hearing about free agency any time the discussion turned to pending free agents Anthony Hitchens or DeMarcus Lawrence, so why not indulge a little more.
Recently, ESPN's Field Yates looked at the 20 top free agents in 2018 and their best fits, and suggested that current Lions pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah might be a good fit for the Cowboys.
After a red-hot start to his career that included 30 sacks in his first three seasons, Ansah has slowed down because of nagging injuries that have prevented him from playing at his highest level. He has some truly unique physical gifts with a super long frame at 6-foot-5 and explosive edge ability to seek out the quarterback. With a modest 2017 to date -- 5.0 sacks through Week 13 -- Ansah could be best-suited looking for a one-year deal to build his value back up before his age-30 season.
Best fit: Cowboys. While DeMarcus Lawrence is a natural candidate for the franchise tag, we'll point out that if a scenario existed in which Dallas instead opted to let him hit the open market, Ansah would be a wise choice. A one-year deal under defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would be a sensible pairing.
Of course, if the Cowboys continue to spend in free agency like they did the past few years, they wouldn't be able to sign Ansah's backup to a contract in Dallas, much less a 28-year old proven pass rusher in a league desperate for pass-rushers.
But if the Cowboys were willing to open up their wallets in free agency, Ansah would certainly be a good acquisition. Unfortunately, getting Ansah would likely mean that the Cowboys aren't able to hold on to DeMarcus Lawrence. Yates explains:
If the franchise tag didn't exist, there might not be a player who would be better positioned to cash in this offseason than Lawrence. The 25-year-old pass-rush phenom has a league-high 13.5 sacks this season. He checks off three of the most valuable boxes in free agency: a tremendous skill set, youth and playing a premium position. He would be a legitimate candidate for an $80 million deal if he reaches the open market, but a franchise tag from the Cowboys is all but inevitable.
Best fit: Detroit Lions. Detroit is desperate for pass-rushers, and Ezekiel Ansah could be elsewhere next season. Lawrence fits what the Lions do under coordinator Teryl Austin and would give Detroit a much-needed blue chip defensive lineman to lead a group that also includes promising 2016 draft pick Anthony Zettel. Plus, general manager Bob Quinn is unafraid to be aggressive in free agency.
Ziggy Ansah wouldn't be a bad get for the Cowboys, but not if it comes at the cost of losing DeMarcus Lawrence. No NFL front office in its right mind will let a 25-year pass rusher in his prime walk in free agency, and I trust that the Cowboys won't let that happen either, even if re-signing Lawrence won't come cheap.