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Cowboys free agency focus: Gerald McCoy’s potential at DT should be an upgrade for Cowboys

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The Cowboys have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Gerald McCoy, a ferocious interior defensive tackle.

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NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

[We have previously been profiling potential fits for the Cowboys but now free agency is here, and things are moving. Let’s start profiling the free agent acquisitions made by the Dallas Cowboys to see where they stand in their roster-building.]

Loss:

DT Maliek Collins agrees to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders

Gain:

DT Gerald McCoy agrees to terms on a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys

Gerald McCoy attended Oklahoma where his production propelled him to the third overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. McCoy’s versatility to play both 4-3 defensive tackle or 3-4 defensive end made his draft stock skyrocket.

As a rookie, McCoy would start 13 games before being placed on IR in December with a torn left biceps injury. McCoy finished his first year tied for third on the team in sacks (3), fourth in tackles for loss (7), and second in pressures (17). Unfortunately, McCoy’s second season would end on injured reserve after six games with torn right biceps.

Finally, in year three, McCoy would have a resurgence as his Bucs defense led the league in stopping the run. McCoy would earn his first of six Pro Bowls and start all 16 games. McCoy finished the year with 30 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five sacks, and a forced fumble. McCoy would follow up with an even better season in 2013. That season, Gerald McCoy started every game, amassing 50 tackles, 21 QB hits, 15 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and earned a First-Team All-Pro selection. In the offseason, McCoy was rewarded with a seven-year extension worth $98M, with $51.5M guaranteed.

McCoy would only play five of the seven years on his extension in Tampa Bay. McCoy would be slowed by a few nagging injuries and would miss at least one game every season. However, McCoy would still be super productive and make the Pro Bowl in four of the five years between the 2014-2018 seasons. In 72 of 80 potential starts, McCoy would record 178 total tackles, 89 QB pressures, 45 tackles for loss, 36 sacks, 11 pass break breakups, and three forced fumbles. Without question, whether the Buccaneers were good or bad, their defensive line remained a strength and Gerald McCoy was a big contributor to the success.

Last offseason, Gerald McCoy would sign a one-year deal with the NFC South rival, Carolina Panthers. McCoy started all 16 games for the Panthers, he recorded 37 tackles, 13 QB pressures, seven tackles for loss, and five sacks, at the ripe age of 31. Looking at Gerald McCoy’s numbers, he hasn’t seen much of a decline and actually has been quite healthy as of late.

Pro Football Focus took a look back at the most valuable additions to teams in 2019 by position based on WAR (wins above replacement). At interior defense, Gerald McCoy was the pick.

DI: GERALD MCCOY, CAROLINA PANTHERS, 0.13 WAR

It was a lean year for interior defensive linemen in free agency and the draft, and McCoy’s solid all-around performance gives him the nod. He had nine games with at least three pressures, finishing the season with 42 total pressures — good for 14th among interior linemen. McCoy was also strong in the run game, ranking 18th with a 77.1 grade, and he showed that he can still contribute up front despite playing in his 10th season.

Needing to focus heavily on defense where they lost four starters at the opening of free agency, the Cowboys made about as good a move as they could. Gerald McCoy doesn’t stop the Cowboys from drafting a defensive tackle but he does give them experience, production, and a high pedigree for quality football. He also seems to be coming at a very reasonable price.

Gerald McCoy’s acquisition should be an upgrade over Maliek Collins and gives the Cowboys pressure up the middle to match the edge presence of DeMarcus Lawrence. McCoy also works well with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s pressure packages in the A-gap. With McCoy in the middle and blitzing Jaylon Smith, it will be tough for opposing offense's interior linemen.