The Dallas Cowboys have been notorious for trying to find cheap resources to handle the inside of their defensive line. The team does like to dabble in the Day 2 waters when it comes to pass-rushing defensive tackle as players like Maliek Collins, Trysten Hill, Neville Gallimore, and Osa Odighizuwa are 3-techs who have all been selected relatively early in the last seven years.
When it comes to the nose tackle position, the team becomes super thrifty as they try to fill the roster with low-cost investments with a dash of upside. Over the years we’ve seen the air guitar stylings of Nick Hayden as well as undrafted free agents like Antwaun Woods and Justin Hamilton earn playing time.
Last season, we saw this team look as strong as they’ve been in a long while. They were so deep with contributors that they released Trysten Hill and fifth-round rookie John Ridgeway. Midway through the season they signed veteran Johnathan Hankins to add strength in the middle.
Both Hankins and fellow veteran Carlos Watkins are free agents. With Odighizuwa, Gallimore, and 2021 sixth-round pick Quinton Bohanna the only defensive tackles under contract, what will this front office do this offseason to get stronger in the middle?
Each day, we’ve looked at a different position group as we have come up with an offseason plan. So far, this has included:
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at quarterback
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at running back
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do on the offensive line
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at wide receiver
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at tight end
- Cowboys 2023 offseason guide: Here’s what they should do at defensive end
Today, we’ll focus on the interior defensive line.
WHAT WE KNOW
Odighizuwa is their guy. We saw Gallimore’s playing time drop this past season as he only started one game and when he did play, his snaps were reduced. He was even a healthy scratch in Week 7. Gallimore is in the final year of his rookie deal and the team clearly prefers Odighizuwa who was selected when Dan Quinn entered the picture.
The team’s only nose tackle under contract is Bohanna after having Ridgeway poached from the practice squad by Washington. That means the Cowboys will need to do something to add bodies to the defensive tackle position group.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Will the team try to retain one of their veteran free-agent signings in Hankins or Watkins? Both are unheralded pieces to this defense. They do the dirty work in the trenches for a discount price. The team may attempt to keep one of these guys. or they might press their luck again in free agency and try to find another cheap veteran who they could get on a one-year rental.
WHAT THE COWBOYS SHOULD DO
Re-sign Hankins if they can get him for the right price. He only cost $1.3 million last year and shouldn’t be much more than that now. He’ll be 31 years old this upcoming season and should have a little left in the tank. He’s a seasoned nose tackle with both strong technique and the power to clog the middle. That’s something the Cowboys desperately need to give them a fighting chance in the running game.
Watkins is an adequate consolation prize. He doesn’t have quite the strength Hankins does, but he has proven time and time again to be a reliable backup defensive tackle. He’s played in 27 games over the past two seasons.
If the Cowboys go another direction, expect another low-cost dart thrown at another veteran in free agency. We already mentioned Jarran Reed who the team had ranked high on their board back in 2016.
The team wished they could have a mulligan on the Ridgeway release as having him on the roster would put them in good shape, but hindsight is 20/20. The Cowboys should again try to find a big-bodied rookie prospect they can develop. We know this team doesn’t invest in 1-techs early in the draft, so it would make no sense to even suggest that. Instead, look for another Day 3 flyer to be a part of their plan.