The Dallas Cowboys are in the business of improving their roster 365 days of the year, or in the case of 2020 - 366 days since it’s a leap year. That is the mantra of Stephen Jones as the team is always on the look out to improve their team. It’s not just lip service either as the Cowboys made moves to bring in Robert Quinn and Michael Bennett last season. They were both outstanding front office moves as these veteran defensive linemen made quality contributions on defense. And the best part is - it hardly cost the Cowboys anything.
For Quinn, the Cowboys had to surrender a sixth-round draft pick (2020) to the Miami Dolphins as well as a $7 million cap hit last year. That’s not bad for guy who registered 11.5 sacks in just 14 games. And Bennett was even cheaper than that. Dallas sent a 2021 seventh-round pick to New England and forked out $2.7 million to rent Bennett’s services for nine games, in which he recorded four sacks and 27 tackles. That’s not a bad use of cap space combined with some cheap Day 3 draft capital.
Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys again look for another good value deal to help them improve their team. And it’s possible that player they target is suiting up to play in the Super Bowl on Sunday. (Hat tip to John Owning who wrote about this scenario a few days ago.)
Solomon Thomas was the no. 3 overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers in 2017 after the team traded out of the no. 2 position with the Chicago Bears. The Bears got the quarterback they wanted in Mitchell Trubisky, and the 49ers stockpiled some nice draft capital with the no. 3, 67, and 111 picks, as well as a 2018 third-rounder. That’s a pretty nice haul for moving back just one spot.
While the extra draft picks were nice, the selection of Thomas has not panned out for the 49ers. It is one of the few mistakes they’ve made in recent drafts as other defensive line picks have worked out masterfully. Players like Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead are also first-round picks who are now the foundation of an outstanding defensive line in San Francisco. In fact, it is their play combined with the Niners recent five-year, $85 million signing of edge rusher Dee Ford that now has Thomas merely a reserve. Thomas saw his snap counts go from 644 (60%) in 2018 to just 424 (41%) last season.
Such a luxury of riches is why a player like Thomas could be on the trading block this offseason. It seems pretty safe that the 49ers have no intention of picking up his fifth-year option that would pay him $13 million in 2021. So, they could either ride out his last year of his contract as a reserve guy and let him walk, or they could look to get something in return by shipping him off to a team in desperate need of help at defensive tackle.
That is where the Cowboys come in. The defensive tackle position continues to be one of their weakest spots on the roster, and it’s about to get worse. Four-year starter Maliek Collins is now an unrestricted free agent. Last year’s acquisitions Bennett and Christian Covington are also free agents. Even Tyrone Crawford, who has one more year left on his deal, has been mentioned as a potential cap casualty as his 2020 $8 million base salary may not be in the team’s plans going forward. That could leave the Cowboys defensive tackle depth chart with just Antwaun Woods and Trysten Hill; the two guys who were sent home after showing up late to meetings last year.
Bringing a player like Thomas to Dallas could provide the team with some added depth along the interior defensive line. His financial cost would be $4.3 million to Dallas and would also require them to give up a draft pick, somewhere in the range of a fourth-rounder. Thomas has had a very unimpressive career so far and had just 21 tackles and two sacks last year. He shouldn’t come with a very high asking price.
But at 24-years-old, he’s still a player who offers some upside. He’s very athletic, moves extremely well, and has very active hands to shed blockers. With a shake up in the coaching ranks in Dallas, Thomas would be under the tutelage of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as well as new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Whether it happens or not, there is certainly something enticing about this former top collegiate prospect finally unleashing his potential.
The acquisition of Thomas would be a nice safety net for the team at the defensive tackle position. He could come in and play the 3-tech position and buy the team a little time to develop Hill and any potential rookie they draft this year. Then, there’s also a chance things take a turn for the better and he takes a step forward. If he enjoys the atmosphere in Dallas, that may lead to an affordable second contract. While that’s putting the cart ahead of the horse, the positives of a deal like this make this a trade scenario the Cowboys should seriously consider.
What do you think? Would you be interested in trading away some draft capital for Thomas?