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Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at the defensive end position

The Cowboys surprised everyone last year with an assortment of edge rushers, but what will things look like in 2023?

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys value pass rushers and had every intention of making that a position of strength last year; however, they weren’t quite sure how to go about it. After the Randy Gregory deal stalled out in the final hour, the team showed interest in a couple of other proven veteran edge rushers, Von Miller and Za’Darius Smith, but apparently, neither deal was to their liking and they both signed elsewhere.

The Cowboys instead resorted to what they often do, investing back in their own guys and looking for affordably priced free agents to add depth. The team re-signed Dorance Armstrong to a two-year, $12 million deal and also signed former third-overall pick Dante Fowler to a one-year, $3 million deal in free agency. They also used their second-round pick to select Ole Miss’ Sam Williams to give them a promising young player to develop. And to the surprise of almost everyone, the path the Cowboys took actually worked out.

The Cowboys managed to put together a great assortment of attackers from the edge. Led by Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, the team had two stars at the corners. Parsons had the highest pass-rushing win rate in the league (30%) while Tank had the highest run-stop win rate in the league (36%) for edge rushers. And when you throw in the contribution of Armstrong, Fowler, and the rookie Williams, no team had a higher pass-rush win rate than the Cowboys last season (52%).

The Cowboys were so stacked with talent that they even released their 2021 low-cost free-agent signing Tarell Basham in November. This year, they’ll have most of the band together with Fowler being the only player who is not under contract. How should the Cowboys proceed in keeping this a strong unit?

Last week, we addressed every position group on offense as we put together a 2023 offseason guide. If you missed any of those, make sure to go check out the ones you’re interested in. They include:

Today, we’ll turn our attention to the defense, starting with defensive end.


The Cowboys front office pulled off some contract wizardry by renegotiating Lawrence’s deal last offseason. Not only did they get him for a cheaper price, but they were able to tack on another year to his deal, keeping Tank on the roster through the 2024 season. Lawrence’s gain from taking a pay cut came in the form of $30 million in guaranteed new money meaning he didn’t have to worry about being a cap casualty and could continue to stick around in Dallas.

Lawrence’s new deal means he’ll remain part of the mix for the next couple of seasons. The phenom Parsons is entering year three of his four-year rookie deal, but realistically it’s five years because the team will exercise his fifth-year option next offseason. Last year’s rookie Williams is under player control for three more seasons and they still have Armstrong under contract for another year.


Lawrence carries a cap hit of $26 million with a base salary of $15 million. The front office could choose to convert up to $9.2 million of his base into bonus money to reduce this year’s cap, but doing so will push some of that cost into future years. Will the team pull the trigger on a restructure?

And while the cheap one-year rental of Fowler worked out great for the Cowboys, the likeliness of him re-signing with Dallas is slim. Spotrac estimates his market value to be $7 million annually. For the role that Fowler would have with the Cowboys, that’s just too steep of a price.


Fowler is a great player to have for depth, but his role won’t justify his cost. The team should let him walk in free agency. Plus, they don’t want him stealing reps from some of their upward-trending, young pass rushers. Sam Williams had a great rookie season and we all can’t wait to see what he could do in year two. Additionally, we started to see 2021 third-round pick Chauncey Golston get more playing time down the stretch last year and he also offers some intriguing upside.

The Cowboys may still look to add a veteran for depth as we have seen them do before with players like Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, Benson Mayowa, the before-mentioned Basham, and Fowler from a year ago. However, they should be looking for a player who will be super cheap with the understanding that they could see limited action or be a roster cut if the younger guys take the next step.

Finally, while edge rushers aren’t a position of need for the Cowboys, they should continue to sift through each year’s draft class in case someone they love falls to them. Every year, there are players who offer unique traits and there seems to always be a player the team’s scouting department loves as they have selected an edge rusher in each of the last nine drafts. Not all of them work as you’ll get a Bradlee Anae here or a Charles Tapper there, but some develop nicely. The team should be open to again drafting another young prospect as you can never have too many pass rushers.

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