The Dallas Cowboys have been outstanding when it comes to drafting players in the first round. In the Jason Garrett era, the team has selected eight players on Day 1 and six of them have turned into All-Pro players (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, and Leighton Vander Esch). Only Morris Claiborne and Taco Charlton haven’t panned out. Claiborne is gone and after just two seasons with the Cowboys, one has to wonder if Charlton will soon follow.
When the Cowboys drafted Charlton in 2017, the state of the defensive line was quite different. Nobody knew that DeMarcus Lawrence was going to turn into the next great defensive lineman as he was coming off a season where he only played in nine games and had just one sack. Randy Gregory was facing a year-long suspension and wouldn’t see the field that season. And the team’s reigning sack leader from the previous year was free agent Benson Mayowa with only six sacks. Things were not looking good for the defensive end position group.
Last year at this time, Lawrence was coming off a breakout season after recording 14.5 sacks. The team also had plenty of wild card guys on ice because they never knew for certain if Lawrence was going to be the answer, causing the front office to franchise tag him so they could buy themselves more time. It ended up costing them a little more money, but now they have a definitive answer - Tank is legit. And fast forward to today and the team looks much stronger at the position.
By far the best group of defensive ends the Cowboys have had since Rod Marinelli joined the coaching staff in 2013— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 5, 2019
Lawrence and Quinn are the team’s stud edge rushers. Gregory’s future is up in the air, but the team just extended him another season and he would be the next man in line if he is available. The team also drafted Dorance Armstrong last year and then signed Kerry Hyder this offseason. So, where does Charlton fit in all this? On the outs.
We could talk about how the team could still save a nice developmental guy in their back pocket for later, but that’s what they have in Armstrong. There just isn’t enough action for both of these guys to get reps. The team has high expectations entering the 2019 season and that means they’re going to roll with the most effective pass-rushing arrangement. There won’t be a lot of reps for unproven guys still trying to showcase their stuff. Should the Cowboys consider moving on from Charlton?
Right now, his stock is not very high. Sure, he’s a former first-round pick, but all that means nothing right now. A team could still see some potential in him as Charlton does posses traits that should appeal to teams that are looking for pass rushing depth. And it’s also possible that putting him on the trading block could just look like the Cowboys front office acting in haste on the heels of their recent defensive end moves. Trading for Quinn, re-signing Lawrence, extending Gregory, and adding Hyder - the team could have just as easily painted Charlton out of the pass-rushing picture.
It’s unsettling to think that Charkton is a sunk cost to where the right move is to just pull the plug on him, but not all of the Cowboys first-round picks are going to be winners. The blow is lessened when you consider the team’s defensive end position group is stronger than it’s been in a long time. The Cowboys have to put on their forward face and are thinking about what’s best from this point on. If they could find a team who still sees upside in Charlton, maybe they could swing a deal. The Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccanners, New Orleans Saints, and Pittsburgh Steelers all had scheduled visits with Charlton before the 2017 draft; would any of those teams still have an interest?
Charlton would not provide much in return, but his low cap cost over the next two years means teams aren’t risking much. He also comes with a fifth-year option that can be exercised next offseason should he flash some type of potential. All the Cowboys could get in exchange for him would be a Day 3 pick, but what if they could squeeze out a late fourth-rounder? Wouldn’t there be players in that range that you’d rather have versus having Charlton way down there on the depth chart?
How the Cowboys view him obviously plays a significant part. Maybe they see things completely different. They could still have high hopes for him as part of their future. Maybe he’s still the answer opposite Lawrence if Quinn leaves after the 2019 season. That scenario seems unlikely and if the team starts to get a sense that Charlton doesn’t have a role on the team, why not cut their losses and at least get something for him?
Charlton was a healthy scratch for two games last season and there could be some maturity issues that are holding him back. If you follow him on social media, then you’re aware that he’s no stranger to Twitter battles as he’s always on the defensive. He just doesn’t come across as a guy who Jason Garrett would keep around very long if he wasn’t going about the game the right way. Garrett has said plenty times before, how you got here doesn’t matter - it’s all about what you do right now. And let’s face it, Taco’s not doing much. Maybe a change of scenery is what he needs.