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Free agency focus: Could a situational pass rusher be in play for the Cowboys?

The Cowboys could look for a short-term rental to fill-in on the defensive line.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency set to start soon, the Cowboys already know they will have to pay DeMarcus Lawrence a pretty hefty contract to re-sign. The latest news regarding Randy Gregory’s “indefinite suspension” leaves an opening to fill opposite of Lawrence. Tyrone Crawford has been the Cowboys ultimate utility man over the course of his career and will likely be penciled in at right end for the interim. The Cowboys also have former first-round pick Taco Charlton going into his third season. This could be the chance Charlton needs to re-route an underwhelming start to his NFL career.

Another way the Cowboys could bolster their edge presence is by looking for a short-term rental in free agency. Here are several available free agent pass rushers from all over the spectrum that could be of interest:

Player Age 2018 Salary 2018 Snap % Sacks TFL QB Hits FUM
Ricky Jean-Francois 30 $1,005,000 41% 2 3 2 0
Cameron Wake 37 $9,125,000 48% 6 5 17 1
Terrell Suggs 37 $5,175,000 72% 7 13 15 1
Brian Orakpo 33 $7,750,000 55% 1.5 3 7 1
Bruce Irvin 31 $3,187,000 43% 6.5 7 12 1
Dante Fowler Jr. 25 $5,872,560 57% 4 5 6 2
Aaron Lynch 26 $4,000,000 34% 3 4 8 -
Margus Hunt 32 $2,050,000 69% 5 13 6 1
Shane Ray 26 $2,279,723 24% 1 1 1 1

Now, this list is comprised of a lot of older veterans but some old dogs can still hunt. Brian Orakpo, Terrell Suggs, and Cameron Wake are all guys that still have something left in the tank. However, in terms of “T-Sizzle”, he’s still playing a ton of snaps for the Ravens and he’s been pretty loyal to that franchise. Now, Cameron Wake is a perfect example of an older guy that has tread on the tires. He had great production for a guy that played less than have of the snaps.

If the Cowboys wanted to fill that explosive first-step quickness that they won’t have in the absence of Randy Gregory, Bruce Irvin is someone to consider. However, Irvin has had dust-ups with the league’s substance abuse program, he was suspended for four games in 2013. Irvin has also had some issues with aggression, he was ejected several years ago in the Super Bowl for unnecessary roughness. Irvin has put together several good seasons but he’s never been an elite pass rusher with stops in Seattle, Oakland, and Atlanta. If his market is relatively affordable, which every indication would say it will be, he should be on the Cowboys’ shortlist.

Dante Fowler has had a tough beginning to his career with an ACL injury that robbed him of his rookie season. In his first full year for the Jaguars, Fowler had 32 tackles, four sacks, and five passes defensed. Fowler had sort of a breakout season in 2017; he forced two fumbles, returning one for a 53-yard touchdown against the Texans. Fowler finished that year with 21 tackles and eight sacks. Alas, the Jaguars declined his fifth-year option and traded him to the Rams for a third-round pick midway through last season. He started six games for the Rams, recorded 21 tackles, and two sacks. Fowler fits the right end criteria as he does possess the necessary speed off the edge.

He does have some concerns with maturity and had some legal troubles, too. He was suspended one game for violating the personal conduct policy. Still, a former high first-round pick could be enticing for the Cowboys. With a player this young, the Cowboys would likely have to make a competitive offer though Fowler will not command top dollar on the market.

Shane Ray is also a former first-rounder that needs a change of scenery. Ray is the another prototype for the right end position with speed and agility off the edge. He played only 24% of the snaps last season for the Broncos but can Rod Marinelli revive the ‘Shane Ray’ from two seasons ago? In 2016, Ray started eight games, played 16, recorded 21 QB hits, eight sacks, six tackles-for-loss, and a forced fumble. He’s still very young and the right coach may bring the best out of him, at least, it’s worth a look.

The Cowboys are about to pay DeMarcus Lawrence somewhere close to the amount that was given to Khalil Mack. This front office may feel like they are giving enough to that position and would rather draft someone. That’s a fine idea but the rookie learning curve is very unkind to young pass rushers. If you can get a short-term deal for a one-year rental that can give you the efforts of the above-mentioned guys, why not make the investment? Pass rushers are coveted in this league and the Cowboys need some potential behind Tank Lawrence. If they really want to get the most out of this defensive line, the Cowboys should load it up with potential.