clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys 2021: Cut, keep, or trade defensive edition

The Cowboys have options on defense.

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

It’s common knowledge that when a new head coach or coordinator arrives on a team that they are looking to bring in their own players from a previous team, or draft players they believe fit the scheme they are going to be using. That couldn’t be more evident when defensive coordinator Dan Quinn arrived to take over a defense that is, and until otherwise proven, in shambles. First, he brought in two players from his former team to play in the rotation, and to help teach his defense to the other players. After that, he was able to take over the Dallas Cowboys draft this season and bring in players that he feels fit what he plans on doing on defense.

Roy White and Tom Ryle recently discussed Cowboys they would not be opposed to trading on the latest episode of Ryled Up. Listen on the Blogging The Boys podcast feed and make sure to subscribe! Subscribe on Apple devices right here or on Spotify right here.

For Quinn the fun part now begins as he can now be hands-on with his new defense and get an up-close look at the players who he’s brought in and how they compare to players that are here from the previous regime. For those hold-over players who aren’t big-time impact players, they are going to have to put in more work to separate themselves from the younger talent that’s coming in looking to make a name for themselves and take their jobs. Here are three such players who are going to be fighting for their jobs, and could either be cut, kept, or traded.

Buffalo Bills v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Darian Thompson - Cut

It’s not hard to see why Quinn wouldn’t want to keep Thompson around at safety, last season he was a big part of the communication mistakes in the secondary and gave up to many big plays down the field. The Cowboys are looking to fix their issues in the secondary and not keep players that may end up being a liability on the field. For that reason, the Cowboys drafted rookie cornerback Israel Mukuamu with a plan to convert him into a safety and brought in two former Quinn safeties in Damontae Kazee and Keanu Neal. And while Neal is set to switch to linebacker, he’s able to come in and play safety is there is a need. Thompson could become expendable and wouldn’t hurt the Cowboys salary cap either; actually they would be saving money if they were to cut Thompson according to As it stands now the Cowboys cap hit for cutting Thompson would be $100,000 while they would be saving almost $1.2 million, that’s a nice bit of money they would be able to put towards players that actually have a future with the team. So this is the cut candidate.

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images

Leighton Vander Esch - Keep

For all of the “will they or won’t they” talk about a trade surrounding Vander Esch, the Cowboys are starting to look like they may actually want to keep him around for the future. There are obviously injury concerns that come with having him on the roster but his talent, when healthy, in a defense similar to the one run during his rookie season could be the reason for the Cowboys hesitancy to trade the former first-round pick. Vander Esch is looking to cash in on a new deal but he will have to show that he can stay healthy or risk losing out on a lot of money this offseason. If Vander Esch can return to form, then the Cowboys could try to work out a deal before the offseason. That will then turn the Cowboys focus to another linebacker who’s not living up to the new contract he signed previously in Jaylon Smith. The Cowboys could cut Smith and figure out a way to pay Vander Esch and then use rookie linebacker Jabril Cox to replace Smith on the roster. So this is the keep candidate.

NFL: NOV 11 Cowboys at Eagles Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Dorance Armstrong - Trade

Armstrong’s time might have run out on this team. The Cowboys made it a priority to bring in defensive line help to beef up the defensive front. They brought in, via free agency, Tarell Basham, Brent Urban, and Carlos Watkins, with Basham being a direct competitor to Armstrong. They also drafted Chauncey Golston this year, and a few of those players mentioned above have the ability to play at defensive tackle giving them even more value to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Golston and Basham are guys that Quinn obviously likes or he wouldn’t have signed Basham to a two-year deal, or drafted Golston leaving Armstrong to battle it out with Bradlee Anae for a roster spot. For Armstrong, who’s in the final year of his rookie deal, he’s going to be looking to perform at a higher level to get his next contract and he has enough game tape for teams to be interested in him if they were to have an injury in camp or aren’t happy with what they currently have on their roster. The Cowboys could make a move with Armstrong to get a late-round pick or player in return. So this is the trade candidate.

If you were to play cut, keep, trade for the Cowboys defense, who would your candidates be?

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys