To no one’s surprise, the Dallas Cowboys appear to be out on the Anthony Barr sweepstakes. Barr is set to join the ranks of Von Miller and Bobby Wagner as linebackers that Dallas was rumored to be interested in, but the flame fizzled out. Now the Cowboys are left with a linebacking room worth $9.18 million in 2022, slightly more than half of what Ezekiel Elliott is set to make next season.
But the Cowboys might be closer to signing Barr than you might expect. While Calvin Watkins reported that “Cowboys have had a summer long interest in FA Anthony Barr but multiple sources said no plans to sign him at this stage.” This might close the door on a Barr arrival during training camp, but there is still a possibility he joins the squad later.
Don’t rule out the possibility of Anthony Barr joining the Cowboys
Three important aspects of the potential Barr signing should be remembered:
- Barr is not the player he used to be
- Circumstances change
- There are people who are more connected to the Cowboys than others
Let’s assume that every word in Calvin Watkins' tweet is true. There is presently no other reason to believe otherwise. So, for right now, there is a near 0% chance Barr joins the squad during training camp.
But Barr isn’t the player he used to be. In terms of talent, there has not been a drastic decline in recent years. 2021 marked Barr’s highest PFF grade since 2018. Granted, his pass rushing and run defense ability are not at their peak, but he is still a solid football player who can help a team.
There is a different reason Barr isn’t the player he used to be, and it is not his fault. Across 2020 and 2021, Barr played in fewer snaps than he did all of 2019. Twenty missed games in two years from a 30-year-old linebacker should raise some red flags. If a team commits to Barr, it will likely be a one-year rental where he can prove he is still durable.
And a one-year or half-year rental might end up being what the Cowboys need because circumstances change. Currently, a linebacking room composed of Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch, and a healthy Jabril Cox doesn’t seem too bad. However, that is one player who regularly shifts to other positions and two who have been unreliable at staying on the field throughout their careers. Granted, it is a small sample size with Cox.
But if LVE or Cox go down to injury, Dallas has three options:
- Move Parsons to the permanent linebacker position
- Increase the snaps for players like Luke Gifford and Devin Harper
- Sign a free agent
Out of these three options, the Cowboys would benefit the most from number three. It would allow Parsons to continue his flex-LB role while not forcing an unqualified defender onto the field. And who would be the most qualified candidate remaining for a fill-in role? Well, that would be one Anthony Barr.
So, Barr would be a good fit because he would only be a short-term solution, which is ideal for a player who has had trouble staying healthy. But does it even matter if Dallas has closed the door on a Barr deal? Based on the tweet, it doesn’t appear the Cowboys are in on the eight-year linebacker.
However, while it might appear that way to the outside spectator, the insiders might disagree. On the most recent episode of 1st and 10, Kyle Youmans, of DallasCowboys.com, and Michael Gehlken, of the Dallas Morning News, were asked if an outside free agent signing was possible and, if so, who.
Despite the interviews happening at separate times, when neither guest could hear the other, both responded that Barr was a real possibility. They indicated that if Dallas were going to add a big-name free agent during camp or during the season, Barr would probably be the guy.
Now, this might not seem significant. But two Cowboys insiders listing the same name as a free agent addition probably means that the conversation between Dallas and Barr isn’t completely over. Two names plugged into the Cowboys’ inner circle being on the same page about one player does not seem like a coincidence. But maybe this is just an exercise in optimistic thinking.
While the report might shut down the possibility of Anthony Barr joining the team in the short term, there is still room for him to hop along in the long term. Is it a guarantee? No. Is it even likely? Probably not. But just because he is not a fit now does not imply that in a couple of months, that could change. All it takes is one injury or a slow start.
This is not a Von Miller or Bobby Wagner situation just yet. While it is not looking good, the door is cracked open for Barr to walk through. Maybe this is putting too much hope in Jerry and Stephen Jones finally opening their pocketbooks. But keep the faith, even if you have to temper expectations.