The Dallas Cowboys are preparing for a potentially troublesome offseason. The Cowboys are currently more than $21 million above the salary cap, via Spotrac, and several difficult decisions must be made.
Dallas is attempting to sort through and prioritize which playmakers they hope to keep and which are deemed replaceable ahead of next season. Reports surfaced late last week that superstar wide receiver Amari Cooper is a cap casualty candidate. Releasing Cooper would save the Cowboys a healthy $16 million against the 2022 cap. Meanwhile, tight end Dalton Schultz is expected to receive the franchise tag, and Dallas has expressed interest in re-signing free-agent-to-be receiver Michael Gallup.
Another twist and turn arrived on Monday morning. According to multiple reports, the Cowboys approached star defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence about taking a sizable pay cut, which the two-time Pro Bowler reportedly declined. It qualifies as a development that leaves Lawrence’s future in Dallas hanging in the balance. Lawrence made just seven regular-season appearances in 2021 after suffering a serious foot injury in mid-September. The Cowboys could save an additional $19 million by releasing or trading Lawrence with a post-June-1st designation.
Should Lawrence reach the open market, his services would undeniably be aggressively pursued by upwards of 10-plus pass-rush-needy teams. We’ve identified three teams that qualify as especially good fits.
The Seahawks are going to look significantly different on the defensive side of the ball next season. At least that’s the goal. Head coach Pete Carroll made sweeping changes to his defensive coaching staff following an abysmal campaign that saw the Seahawks allow more than 379 yards of offense per contest. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was relieved of his duties in Seattle’s coaching change shuffles.
Upgrading their pass-rushing efforts is a must this offseason. Seattle recorded just 34 sacks in 17 regular-season contests. Only eight teams finished with a worse output in that department and they included the likes of the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans. Not exactly the company one wants to keep. The aging Carlos Dunlap must be surrounded with more effective and consistent EDGE defenders going forward.
Former Tennessee standout Darrell Taylor is an ascending player, but the drafting of L.J. Collier has failed to provide the desired dividends, leaving Seattle with depth issues, while also lacking a high-end playmaker at the position. The Seahawks are prepared to enter free agency with more than $35 million in cap space and can afford to make a splash. Splurging on a pass rusher is a necessity for Seattle in the coming weeks.
Javon Hargrave is a force to be reckoned with on the interior but general manager Howie Roseman must flank him with more effective pass rushers on either side. Josh Sweat signed a lucrative three-year contract extension in September after experiencing a career-best season in 2021, but the Eagles must find more appropriate running mates for Hargrave and Sweat after the Eagles finished the campaign with a pathetic 29 sacks. Hargrave and Sweat accounted for more than half of those quarterback takedowns (15). Only the Atlanta Falcons recorded fewer sacks as a team.
Former first-round selection Derek Barnett has never developed into a high-end pass rusher, and Barnett is now prepared to reach free agency next week. Talks regarding an extension between the two sides have been relatively quiet, and the writing for Barnett’s future in The City of Brotherly Love was on the wall when Sweat was awarded a shiny new deal.
Barnett is largely expected to depart the Eagles, and Philadelphia must replace him with a more impactful quarterback hunter. Barnett’s impending departure has little to do with salary cap-related reasons, as the Eagles possess more than $20 million in available financial freedom.
Plucking Lawrence from their arch-nemesis, much-hated Cowboys would qualify as THE epic troll of all trolls, but it’s rooted in much more than a simple sibling rivalry. The Eagles legitimately need to attract a sack artist this offseason, and Lawrence more than fits that definition.
NEW YORK JETS
If Lawrence is willing to offer up his services to the highest bidder, there’s a decent chance the New York Jets will reveal themselves as a strong contender. The Jets enter free agency with an astounding $44.7 in available cap space and general manager Joe Douglas should have interest in adding a big-time pass rusher via the open market. Head coach Robert Saleh is a defensive-minded leader that will demand better results on that side of the ball going forward. Last offseason’s signing of Carl Lawson backfired after the former Cincinnati Bengal suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in August, and the Jets were left with little in the form of proven pass-rush production, particularly on the edges of their defense.
Lawson’s absence was tremendously felt by a thin pass-rushing group that managed just 33 sacks throughout the course of the campaign or less than two sacks per contest. Lawson has now experienced two lower-body season-ending injuries, and his effectiveness going forward unfortunately remains in question. Should Dallas’ Lawrence become a free agent, several teams are expected to express interest in acquiring him. The Jets would almost surely place themselves among his suitors, and a big-money offer could quickly arrive as Douglas and Saleh look to field a more effective unit in 2022.