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Veteran defensive tackle that could create interest from a Cowboys defense in search of help

The Cowboys need help along their defensive line, so the search is on.

Chicago Bears v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Last year in an effort to bolster their defensive line, specifically at the tackle position, the Cowboys turned to a couple of aging free agents. It didn’t work out as they hoped. Gerald McCoy was lost before the season even began to injury. Dontari Poe was never a factor and was released before mid-season arrived. After that failure, would the Cowboys go that route again?

While thinking about potential adds to the Cowboys roster, we aren’t limited to free agents. The Cowboys could potentially pull off some trades if so inclined. Yesterday, our own DannyPhantom looked at some potential trade possibilities and included two interior defensive linemen in Michael Brockers and David Onyemata.

Now, Bleacher Report has paired the Cowboys up with another veteran defensive tackle in a possible trade.

Any addition on defense would be an ideal trade possibility for the Dallas Cowboys. They were that bad on that side of the ball in 2020.

The unit was particularly awful at the point of attack. After Gerald McCoy ruptured his quadriceps tendon in August and was released, Dallas cut Dontari Poe in October. Its plans along the interior never materialized, and it allowed 2,541 rushing yards on five yards per attempt.

Meanwhile, eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins fell out of favor with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 32-year-old may not be the same explosive defender he was, but his presence would provide experience and stability.

It would be tricky from a financial perspective, however, to acquire Atkins and retain Dak Prescott unless Atkins renegotiates the final two years on his deal.

The interesting thing about this idea is that the Cowboys may not have to make that trade to get Atkins. The blurb above notes that Atkins still has two years left on his current deal and the base salaries on that deal are roughly $11 million for 2021 and $12 million for 2022. That would likely be too rich for the Cowboys current salary cap situation.

But what if they didn’t have to pay that? What if they were free to negotiate their own deal? One that would preclude them from using a draft pick in a trade?

That could be the case as it appears that Atkins may be a cap casualty in Cincinnati. ESPN just posted this recently.

Other franchise legends could be joining [Carlos] Dunlap out the door as Cincinnati approaches the final critical offseason during this rebuilding phase. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins and wide receiver A.J. Green are among those who might not return. That scenario gives the Bengals more salary cap space to build a potential playoff contender around rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

More pointed is this snippet from a Bengals-specific site discussing possible cap casualties for the Bengals.

This is the big one. Atkins apparently suffered a shoulder injury late in training camp and never really made it on the field. When he was there, the impact wasn’t noticeable. Atkins will be 33 in March and cutting him saves $9.6 million in cap space. The rumblings after he went to injured reserve sure made it sound like he and the team would split this offseason, which makes sense considering the Bengals need as much free space as possible to extend guys like Lawson and pursue free agency’s biggest names along the offensive line.

Atkins was once one of the stud defensive tackles in the NFL. As recently as 2018, Atkins was putting up elite numbers, but 2019 was a down year (by his standards) and 2020 was basically wiped out by injury.

Defense & Fumbles Table
Game Game Tack Tack Tack Tack Tack
Year G GS Sk Comb Solo Ast TFL QBHits
2010 16 1 3.0 16 10 6 3 14
2011* 16 15 7.5 47 26 21 10 18
2012*+ 16 16 12.5 54 39 15 17 21
2013 9 9 6.0 20 9 11 5 13
2014* 16 16 3.0 34 20 14 8 9
2015*+ 16 16 11.0 42 31 11 17 21
2016* 16 16 9.0 32 21 11 13 26
2017* 16 15 9.0 46 29 17 10 20
2018* 16 16 10.0 45 24 21 13 19
2019* 16 14 4.5 47 18 29 4 10
2020 8 0 0.0 1 1 0 0 1
Care 161 134 75.5 384 228 156 100 172
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/11/2021.

Atkins is aging, and aging players are more susceptible to injury. With the Cowboys striking out on two aging veteran defensive tackles, they may not be ready to go back to that well again.

Would you pursue Atkins, BTB?