[The Cowboys have a long list of their own free agents to consider but reality is that several will not return. In this series, we’ll look at the many free agents set to hit the open market in 2020 and if any of those might be of interest to the Cowboys.]
More than half of the Cowboys’ defensive line will be free agents this year and Dallas will be focused on paying two offensive stars, QB Dak Prescott and WR Amari Cooper. Some guys might be able to sign bigger deals elsewhere. Whether or not the Cowboys can retain some of their pending free agents, they still need major help on the interior of their defensive line. Former Packers and most recently Lions interior lineman, Mike Daniels, might be an interesting candidate for the Cowboys,
It’s easy to connect some dots here with the Cowboys hiring Mike McCarthy as their new head coach. McCarthy was the head coach of a Packers staff that drafted Daniels in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Daniels spent seven seasons in Green Bay and was the unsung hero of their defensive line, making a Pro Bowl in 2017. Daniels started 72 of 102 games played in Green Bay, he finished with 225 combined tackles and 29 sacks. In July of 2019, the Packers cut Daniels and he signed a one-year $8.1M deal with the rival Detroit Lions several days later.
Daniels played just nine games for the Lions this past season and finished with just 10 tackles, and one sack before he was placed on IR. Though his time in Detroit was forgettable, he’s still one of the better interior linemen on the market this offseason. Daniels is not the type of guy that will have huge sack numbers but he’s still very disruptive in his own right and can collapse pockets. Daniels has an elite burst off the ball and though he’s undersized at 6’0, his 310-pound frame is a load to deal with. Daniels plays with excellent leverage and uses his limbs to reach through blockers to get to the ball-carrier. Daniels is coming off a few rough seasons and at 31, with two seasons ending on IR, his market is not likely to be very high.
Hopefully, the Cowboys are looking to finally prioritize the defensive tackle position under Mike Nolan. Dallas just hasn’t valued the position enough under the previous regime with Rod Marinelli. Sure, they have found guys like David Irving in the past but he couldn’t be trusted to stay off the naughty list. Trysten Hill, the Cowboys top draft selection this season, was only active for seven games. Though the Cowboys finished a respectable 11th in rushing defense, it’s not indicative of how inconsistent they were. Several games this season, the Cowboys just had no answer for the opponent’s running backs. Most notably, Aaron Jones and Dalvin Cook both had their way with the Cowboys defense. Having interior defensive linemen that don’t get pushed or turned off the ball is important. Line one of defense in the NFL is stopping the run.
The Cowboys will surely look to the draft again this year for some talent but it would be beneficial to pick up a veteran like Mike Daniels for insurance, if he can be had at a low cost. The Cowboys have guys like DeMarcus Lawrence to set the edge but they need a much stronger presence inside. Though Mike Daniels has had a couple of down years, he still could offer a team quality production and won’t come with an inflated price tag. Given his history with McCarthy, it would make sense for the Cowboys to give Daniels a call.
We would love to hear from the BTB community. Should the Cowboys kick the tires on Mike Daniels?