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Cowboys free agency 2023: Defensive lineman Arden Key provides versatility at a discount

Needing to replenish depth, the Cowboys should look into free agent defensive lineman Arden Key.

NFL: AFC Wild Card Round-Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

When the free agent market opens in just a few short weeks, the Dallas Cowboys will say goodbye to several players. A few starters are likely to leave, and certainly some rotational players will look for opportunities elsewhere to see more playing time. A player that fits that description is Dante Fowler Jr. at defensive end. Fowler came to Dallas as an unrestricted free agent last year and was productive last season, despite seeing the field sparingly.

Fowler totaled six sacks in his part-time role and likely will command more than the $3 million salary he took to sign with the Cowboys, almost guaranteeing he prices himself out of the Cowboys market. The Cowboys do have other options to turn to on the roster, however. Rookie Sam Williams showcased his potential as a part-time contributor. Yet, there’s one veteran on the market the Cowboys could bring in that could fill Fowler’s spot and provide a bit more versatility for pennies on the dollar.

Arden Key

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Pos: Defensive End

NFL Exp: 6 yrs.

Arden Key is the exact type of player the Cowboys generally take a chance on in free agency, a journeyman type of player that won’t demand a high salary and has good physical traits to work with. Coming out of LSU, had a very high upside for his ability to rush the passer, but some personal off-the-field issues caused him to drop in the 2018 draft (third round, pick 87) to the Las Vegas Raiders. After falling out of favor with the team, Key was waived following the 2020 season and subsequently landed in San Francisco on a one-year contract and that’s when Key’s career began to rapidly improve.

Key is coming off two solid campaigns, albeit in a rotational capacity. Over the last two seasons, Key has compiled 11 sacks, and 39 quarterback pressures while playing an average of 38% of the snaps in San Francisco and last year in Jacksonville. Still relatively young at 26 years old, Key would fit in seamlessly as a rotational piece next to Sam Williams. What’s even more appealing is he has the versatility to play inside next to Micah Parsons on passing downs.

A realistic price tag for Key could be two years for $8 million. Though Key had some growing pains and bouts with injuries earlier in his career, he’s appeared to have found his footing as a professional and would be a low-cost, low-risk addition in Dallas.

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