As we’ve grown to realize over the years, the Cowboys rarely make big splashes in free agency. As often quoted by Stephen Jones, the Cowboys just aren’t interested paying average players like good players, good players like great players, and great players like Hall of Famers. But they do have a knack for adding quality players via free agency to help their team. Whether it be guys like Randall Cobb or George Selvie, the Cowboys free agency strategy sometimes pays off.
This year, they have a few candidates for the big-payoff in 2021. Both Brent Urban and Tarell Basham come to mind, but Basham seems to be quietly flying under-the-radar leading up to training camp.
After being drafted in the the third round by the Colts in 2017 out of Ohio, Basham has struggled to make his mark in the NFL. He was waived by the Colts after disappointing seasons in 2017 and 2018, then he was claimed by the Jets and found somewhat of a groove in New York.
In his two full seasons with the Jets, Basham racked up 5.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss, and 17 QB hits in 11 starts. While he will likely never turn into a legit double-digit sack EDGE, he has qualities about his game that should really excite Cowboy fans. He does offer some pass rush ability from multiple alignments, and his ability to play both off-the-ball and on the EDGE at defensive end gives Dan Quinn a lot of versatility with Basham.
In his 2020 season with the Jets, Basham finished with a 71.7 run defense grade, a 65.6 pass rush grade, and an overall grade of 64.6, by Pro Football Focus. In 2019, PFF gave him a 67.5 run defense grade, a 67.1 pass rush grade, and an overall grade of 73.1.
With Basham coming off his best two years in the NFL in 2019 and 2020, there’s hope that he can play at the level he was drafted at out of Ohio University in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. If healthy, he should be given plenty of opportunities at both defensive end and SAM linebacker.
DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory should be the primaries at EDGE, but the Cowboys are looking for depth behind them. There are plenty of candidates for the position including guys like Dorance Armstrong, Bradlee Anae, and Chauncey Golston. Basham’s experience and versatility might just give him the edge in the competition, and give the Cowboys another under-the-radar free agency success.