The pot is big. You know your opponent has you beat. Your only chance to drag the pot is to push all-in. Do you have the stones to pull it off? Or is it better to just check and live to fight another day?
That is the dilemma the Cowboys are facing when it comes to addressing their pass rushing needs through free agency. Certainly, they don’t have to do anything. They can stand pat and rely on making a good selection in this year’s NFL Draft to find the player they need. That requires a lot of discipline, but it’s a trait the front office has exhibited repeatedly over the last several years. And they have a strong core team as a result. So fans have become acclimated with the fact that Dallas isn’t likely to splash around with a big-name free agent signing.
Recently, I made a list of some low cost free agent pass rushers that the team could look to after the dust has settled with the first few phases of free agency. Of course, those names offered very little to be excited about. It was like trying to sell you on Brussels sprouts when everyone is expecting steak. The Cowboys already have solid depth at the position, they just don’t have a go-to guy. What would a team really gain by adding more mediocrity to the rotation?
The Cowboys front office know this and as The Cool One reported on Monday, it could be why they were going to give Jason Pierre-Paul a serious look had the New York Giants not franchised tagged him. That’s rather refreshing news for us fans that are desperately pleading for a legitimate threat on the edge. Are the Cowboys going to make a real play at a free agent pass rusher? Maybe they’ve looked ahead at the draft and come to the realization that their “best player available” pick at 28 could end up being a cornerback or possibly some other non-defensive end position. Where would a war daddy come from then? Late second round? This is a deep draft, but that’s asking a lot.
Jerry Jones and company may have a free agency plan that could involve spending a big chunk of change of an edge rusher. But plans could be fizzling a bit after the three top free agent defensive ends have all been franchise-tagged (Chandler Jones and Melvin Ingram were also tagged).
Maybe the Cowboys now turn to the next best available pass rusher in free agency, Arizona’s Calais Campbell. Just on the north side of 30, he’s not the spring chicken the team typically looks for in free agency, but what he is, is a consistent pass rushing machine. Campbell is coming off a season where he had eight sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, six passes batted down, and one interception. He even had a defensive touchdown.
Our own Manik Aggarwal had Campbell on his radar back in January and had this to say about him.
Before you get riled up that Calais Campbell is turning 31 this year, look at what Dwight Freeney (Falcons) and Julius Peppers (Packers) have done this season. Calais Campbell was named to the 2nd All-Pro team this year and he would provide experience, depth and versatility to the defensive line. Most importantly, his addition would serve as a catalyst for Dallas to walk away from Randy Gregory all together.
Should the Cowboys push their chips in the middle and secure themselves a perennial pass rushing threat? Don’t fret the money issue as the Cowboys will have Tony Romo’s salary off the books for future seasons and that will open up a lot of cap space in the long run. The real question is - can a player like Campbell make a big impact and be worth the investment? Close your eyes for a moment and just imagine this Cowboys team with a stud pass rusher. Yeah, it’s fantastic, isn’t it?