Dan Quinn is back! We can all breathe a sigh of relief knowing we don’t have to stress out about who his potential replacement would be, or how that would impact the Dallas Cowboys defense after watching them play like one of the best overall units in the league throughout the 2022 season. Now all we have to do is sit back and let Dan the Man go to work.
The offseason is still very young, but you can bet Quinn is already hard at work figuring out how to best construct this defense for the upcoming season. As such, he probably already has a list of players in mind that he’d like the Cowboys to target in both free agency and through the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s that “wishlist” we will try to guesstimate today. We’re not at all suggesting he will get most of this list, but one or two of them would be nice.
Free agency - Daron Payne
If the Dallas Cowboys want to significantly upgrade their defensive front and make a splash in free agency, Daron Payne is there guy. The 6’3”, 320-pound DT is a force to be reckoned with against the run and has developed into a disruptive pass rusher as well. 11.5 of his 26 career QB sacks came in 2022, which was a big reason why he made his first Pro Bowl.
2023 NFL Draft - Siaki Ika, Baylor
Siaki Ika is a rarity among defensive tackles, not only in the 2023 draft class, but ever. The 6’4”, 354-pound DT is not only a big, space-eating interior defensive lineman, but one who is surprisingly athletic for his size. His bread and butter as a player is holding up at the point of attack in the run game, but he has some encouraging juice as a pass rusher as well.
Free agency - Dante Fowler Jr.
Dante Fowler, really!? Out of all of the free agent defensive ends/pass rusher’s on the open market this year, Dan Quinn would probably prefer to re-sign Dante Fowler over anyone else. He’s known Fowler since college and knows how to get the best out of him. Fowler may be hoping for more of a starting gig, but a return to Dallas could be mutually beneficial.
2023 NFL Draft - Nolan Smith, Georgia
At 6’3”, 237-pounds, Nolan Smith is a bit of a tweener by NFL standards. Despite that though, he is a physical two-way defender against both the run and pass with an enticing blend of size and athleticism. Add him to the mix of Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, and Sam Williams and Dallas would have a scary pass rushing unit.
Free agency - Leighton Vander Esch
Make no mistake, Leighton Vander Esch is one of the top linebackers in free agency this year. Yes, injuries will always be a concern with him, but even after missing a few games with a right shoulder injury this year 2022 was one of the best seasons of his career. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Dan Quinn try his best to get him re-signed.
2023 NFL Draft - Jack Campbell, Iowa
Jack Campbell is a big (6’4”, 248), physical linebacker with top-notch instincts who would excel as the MIKE linebacker in Dan Quinn’s system if drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. He is a force against the run and is reliable in pass coverage, especially underneath/intermediate zone coverage. If the Cowboys don’t re-sign LVE, Campbell would be an ideal replacement.
Free agency - Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson may be 32 years old (turns 33 July 11), but he’s still one the best CBs available in free agency this year. He’s a savvy veteran who is an 8-time Pro Bowler and 2-time First-team All-Pro. He’s coming off a 2022 season in which he accumulated five INT’s and would be an upgrade over Anthony Brown opposite Trevon Diggs.
2023 NFL Draft - Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
If the Dallas Cowboys are looking for a big, physical cornerback to play opposite Trevon Diggs for the foreseeable future, Joey Porter Jr. is their guy. The 6’2”, 200-pound former Nitty Lion is the son of former All-Pro LB Joey Porter and plays the CB position with the same kind of physical demeanor as his father. A Diggs/Porter pairing would be scary.
Free agency - Jessie Bates III
Malik Hooker played surprisingly above expectations in 2022 as the Cowboys FS, but injuries will always be a concern with him. To combat that, and probably upgrade the position at the same time, Jessie Bates could sit atop Dan Quinn’s wishlist. The soon to be 26-year-old (February 26) would be ideal patrolling the backend of Dallas’ secondary.
2023 NFL Draft - Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
Antonio Johnson (6’3”, 195) was kind of a Swiss Army knife type of player for Texas A&M’s defense during his time in College Station. He is a physical and instinctive defensive player who lined up at strong and free safety, slot CB, and even linebacker with the Aggies. He is a versatile defender who Dan Quinn could deploy in a variety of different ways.