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Why the Cowboys keeping Robert Quinn should be a top priority

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Retaining the free agent defensive end should be near the top of the Cowboys’ to-do list.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a few years, the Dallas Cowboys have plenty of significant free agents. Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, and Randall Cobb could all potentially walk this offseason. Now obviously that won’t happen, Prescott and Cooper are basically locks to be here next season, while Jones seems like a good bet to walk away.

It remains to be seen if Randall Cobb will be willing to take a somewhat team-friendly deal to return and reunite with his former head coach Mike McCarthy, but someone may be willing to pay Cobb good money on the open market. While these free agents have stolen the headlines this winter, talk about defensive end Robert Quinn has been quiet.

The former All-Pro had an outstanding first season in Dallas in 2019. In just 14 games, Quinn recorded 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, 13 tackles for loss and 22 quarterback hits. His 11.5 sacks led the Cowboys team and were six more than DeMarcus Lawrence registered last season.

Now sack totals aren’t everything for defensive linemen. Lawrence had a much better season last year than most give him credit for despite a low sack total, but for Quinn, sacks were the name of the game. This is a guy who once registered 29.5 sacks in two seasons back with the Rams in 2013-2014.

Dallas acquired Quinn from the Miami Dolphins for just a sixth-round draft pick during the 2019 offseason. If the teams knew the pass-rusher would make the impact he did and register 11.5 sacks, the Dolphins would have asked for more and the Cowboys would have likely paid it

Time after time, Quinn made big plays when the struggling Dallas defense needed them most. He was unequivocally their best pass-rusher, and arguably the best performing player on the entire defense. So after all this, it’s simple right, you have to bring him back? Sadly, it’s not that cut and dry for the Cowboys.

As mentioned at the top of the article, for the first time in a few years, the Cowboys have a boatload of impactful free agents. Prescott and Cooper will demand big-time contracts, eating away a good chunk of the Cowboys’ cap room. There is always a high demand for pass-rushers in free agency, and Quinn will be one of the best in the free agency crop. Dallas may be priced out of what they are comfortable paying, giving the Cowboys a big decision to make. Is Quinn essential enough to the defense that it might be worth letting another player go, say, Randall Cobb, to bring him back?

If Dallas was to let Quinn walk, their defensive line group, which is already not in great shape, would take a huge hit. Sure the Cowboys could draft A.J. Epenesa or K’Lavon Chaisson and hope they are able to provide some of the production Quinn did, but that’s taking a huge risk. A rookie pass rusher recording 11 sacks is virtually unheard of. Even Nick Bosa, the premier pass-rusher who was drafted number two overall last season, recorded nine in his rookie year this past season.

Another factor is the Dallas offense is built to lose a starter much more than their defense is. Dallas has star power all over on their offense, on the defense they have one star in DeMarcus Lawrence. If it comes down to losing Cobb and a few other guys and keeping Quinn, the choice for Dallas should not be a difficult one.

As the Cowboys seem set to move on from Byron Jones, the same should not be applied to Robert Quinn. Without him, there is no telling how poor the defense would have performed last season. Pass-rushers in the NFL are always at a premium. The good news is that the Cowboys have hinted that they will attempt to keep Quinn.

The price may be steep, but the Cowboys need to find a way to bring Quinn back to Dallas next season.