While it’s true the Dallas Cowboys basically avoided signing outside free agents in 2022, with Dante Fowler and James Washington the notable exceptions, they could certainly look to add some now. Once the draft ended, the compensatory pick formula is no longer a factor when adding free agents, and it’s been speculated the Cowboys may add one or two now. Even Stephen Jones has said the team isn’t done in free agency.
So who would they add? One popular theory that has been thrown around on various occasions is former Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. There may be a few reasons this is coming up. One was that the Cowboys were very interested in Barr during the 2014 draft. He never made it to their pick, instead they had to settle for some guy named Zack Martin, but the interest was there.
Another connection is George Edwards. He was Barr’s defensive coordinator in Minnesota for a while and is now on the Cowboys staff. And the final reason is the fact the Cowboys are still pretty thin at linebacker and could use a veteran presence in case of injury.
But Bill Barnwell goes on to say the Cowboys should consider Barr as more than a linebacker. They should consider him as a Micah Parsons-lite type player.
ILB Anthony Barr to the Dallas Cowboys
In 2019, the Jets signed Barr to a five-year deal in the $70 million range amid rumors that they were going to turn the linebacker into an edge rusher. Barr backed out of the deal and re-signed with the Vikings, but while he saw occasional reps on the edge, the Vikings didn’t unleash Barr as a pass-rusher. He racked up four sacks over three seasons while missing 22 games, most notably with a torn pec in 2020.
Now that he’s a free agent, what if a team took a chance on using Barr in more of a hybrid role? We saw the Cowboys unlock something truly special from Micah Parsons by using their 2020 first-round pick as both an off-ball linebacker and an edge rusher a year ago. Barr isn’t Parsons, but after Dallas lost Randy Gregory this past offseason, Barr would give the Cowboys another eligible rusher who is also capable of playing a more traditional linebacker role.
Barr and Leighton Vander Esch would each be leverage against the other’s injury history, and senior Cowboys defensive assistant George Edwards served as Barr’s defensive coordinator between 2014 and 2019.
It’s not bad logic. The Cowboys certainly need another traditional linebacker in the mix with Leighton Vander Esch’s injury history and Jabril Cox coming off the ACL injury.
And before you think turning Barr into a pass rusher is some flight of fancy, that was actually part of his appeal coming into the draft in 2014. Our own Tom Ryle pointed this out in an article during that time.
Based on the interview he gave DallasCowboys.com, he is being looked at strictly to become a DE with the primary duty of being one of Rod Marinelli’s rushmen.
“I spoke with (Marinelli) at length today,” Barr said. “He showed me a lot of tape of (Julius) Peppers and Simeon Rice and (Warren) Sapp, so I think he wants me playing that defensive right end position to go after the quarterback, and that’s something I’m all for.”
That in-between size, plus the fact that 4-3 teams like Dallas would likely have to put him in a new position, may cause him to slip just a little, and the Cowboys might find themselves with a chance to pick up a player many see as a top ten talent and one of the best pass rushers in the draft.
Similar things were said about Parsons’ pass rush ability coming into his draft year. This is in no way to suggest Barr is Parsons - Parsons is a unique talent. But given how they used Parsons, it’s not inconceivable the Cowboys could be thinking this way about Barr.
In the end, though, we all know it comes down to money.