Cowboys: What If DE Greg Hardy Isn’t Resigned?


Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy brought a needed element to a defense that was lacking a pass rush in 2014, but was that enough to keep him in next season?

With the focus of the Dallas Cowboys now shifting towards the 2016 NFL season already, perhaps the first and biggest question is whether or not defensive end Greg Hardy should be given a new contract.

Indeed, Hardy was an added element to a defense that still wasn’t able to do enough to keep this franchise from clinching it’s first losing season under aspiring head coach Jason Garrett – we’re obviously not counting his final eight games at the helm during the 2010 disaster.

Dallas has had a pretty strong rotation of defensive ends in 2015, yet this area of the defensive line wasn’t able to do enough to change the fortunes of a Cowboys defense that couldn’t do enough to build on last years success. Strange is the fact that the Cowboys were able to generate turnovers last season with a deficient pass rush – but they couldn’t duplicate that element with a better pass rush this season.

The Cowboys defense is good, but there’s room for improvement. The questions include how Dallas accomplishes this goal and what exactly is missing. Last year it was easy to see what was lacking, but this season it seems to simply be a lack of turnovers, right?

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Well, it’s not that simple.

Hardy’s presence was felt immediately by ‘Deflator’ Tom Brady of the New England Patriots on Week 5. Despite the fact he hasn’t been as consistent as the franchise might have hoped, Hardy has still made an impact that has allowed others to flourish.

One of those beneficiaries is second-year defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.

The former Boise State pass-rush specialist came on strong during last year’s playoff run against the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Still failing to grab a sack during the regular season, Lawrence picked up two during the playoffs, which has led to a productive season as an NFL sophomore. The combination of experience and Hardy’s presence has certainly aided in Lawrence’s bigger impact in 2015. Lawrence currently leads the team in sacks with 7.0 sacks with two games still to play.

Do the Cowboys know exactly what they have in rookie Randy Gregory? While the ceiling is high, Gregory hasn’t had the number of reps needed to become the force that many think he’ll be. Further, Gregory’s weight is a temporary issue that generally keeps the former Nebraska star off the field on running downs.

It’s possible that the Cowboys believe that one season with Hardy is enough. The franchise has a couple of young defensive ends in Lawrence and Gregory that could conceivably man starting roles next season as bookends for the future.

If this is true, even retaining Hardy at a smaller financial investment that’s hardly a bank-breaker might not be ideal.

Given that the Cowboys sit poised to select in the top-10 in the 2016 NFL Draft, it wouldn’t necessarily be a mistake to look into long-term solutions at defensive end – or even defensive tackle.

The Cowboys could be eyeballing a prospect like Joey Bosa of Ohio State or Emmanuel Ogbah of Oklahoma State could be immediate replacements for Hardy, especially given that Lawrence and Gregory are already in the fold.

The Cowboys could also choose to keep Hardy while also bolstering a defensive interior that neither stops the run well enough or helps to collapse the pocket enough to force more quarterback mistakes.

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The issue facing the Cowboys is that they have to make a decision on Hardy well before the annual player selection meeting in Chicago, which is why we can probably expect to see Hardy sticking around in 2016 and beyond.

But should Dallas decide to let their second-leading sack artist (5.5) walk away for nothing, expect that first selection in the coming draft to address the defensive line.