Cowboys: A Case For Keeping DE Greg Hardy

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Cowboys should take one more flier on defensive end Greg Hardy, despite an inaugural partial season that generated just six sacks.

Among the Dallas Cowboys biggest questions of the offseason is what exactly to do with controversial defensive end Greg Hardy . Depending on what you read, the decision may already have been made to let the pending unrestricted free agent walk away to another team later this year.

According to Dallas Morning News contributor Brandon George, Hardy cleaned out his locker this week at Valley Ranch, and it wasn’t suggested that this was simply a preliminary undertaking in preparation for the grand opening of Dallas’ new practice facility in Frisco, Texas later this year.

Or, there’s the likelihood that no decision has yet been made regarding Hardy’s future with the Cowboys, at least if you believe anything coming out of the mouth of owner and general manager Jerry Jones. DMN writer David Moore quotes Jones this week on the topic of whether or not Hardy brought the expected results to the Cowboys in his 12 games played in 2015.

"If you were to say, ‘OK, Greg had six sacks in 12 games, would you have expected more than that?’ The answer to that question is probably yes. But at the same time, he affects other players on the defensive line. We’re a little early in the game to be bringing final decisions to the table as to whether a player really performed in a way we feel like he should have performed. Should we bring that player back, should we not bring the player back? Those are all things to discuss over the next two to three weeks."

That part about affecting other players is where this debate shifts heavily in Hardy’s favor, at least in terms of his staying with the Cowboys.

If you’re interested in the thoughts of head coach Jason Garrett, which I’m definitely not, then you can decide for yourself what exactly those mean right here.

You think that the sudden emergence of second-year defensive end Demarcus Lawrence came only because of his talent and experience?

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Lawrence didn’t get his first official sack until Week 4 of ’15 against the New Orleans Saints. His second sack didn’t come until Week 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. From that point, the young edge rusher broke out with six sacks over his final seven games of the season, eventually leading the Cowboys in sacks with eight.

Interesting is the fact that the time line of Lawrence’s increase in sacks seems to coincide with Hardy’s drop-off down the stretch.

Hardy had two sacks in his Cowboys debut against the New England Patriots on Week 5. He had totaled four and a half over his first six games following his four-game suspension to begin the season.

But The Kraken tallied just a sack and a half over the last six games of the season.

There’s no doubt that Hardy opened things up for other players in defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s front line. In addition to the strong season Lawrence turned in, defensive tackles Tyrone Crawford and Jack Crawford (no relation) both set career highs in sacks with five and four, respectively.

It goes without saying that Hardy’s presence not only opened up the opposite edge, but also helped create some space along a defensive interior that was almost completely void of playmakers during that 12-4 run in 2014.

These are things to consider before deciding that Hardy shouldn’t remain on the team simply because he didn’t get enough sacks during an abbreviated campaign that followed a ’14 season in which Hardy only played in a single game.

In other words, this season was going to be about Hardy getting back into complete football shape and also getting re-acclimated to professional football altogether. The idea that he was going to miss well over a year of football games and then coming storming out of the gate with 15-plus sacks last season was never based on reality.

As for the off-the-field stuff that’s completely played out, there’s no application there. If Hardy’s legal issues had been that big of a big deal to Jones, he’d have never been signed by the Cowboys in the first place.

As for tardiness to team meetings and/or practice – or any other behaviors not conducive to team chemistry, fine the guy. This is completely correctable, but only if a head coach with a lick of assertiveness ever shows up at Valley Ranch. Since that’s not about to happen anytime soon, it’s really not Hardy’s problem, right?

The bottom line here is that teams with great pass rushers have a far better chance of reaching things like Super Bowls than teams that do not, that’s a fact and if you doubt that then I’ll simply refer you to the ’14 Cowboys, specifically a particular divisional playoff game at Green Bay against the Packers.

The Cowboys aren’t nearly a good enough defense to be casting off pass rushers, are they?

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Unless you’re a believer that rookie Randy Gregory, who didn’t have a single sack in ’15, is going to explode in 2016 for better than Hardy’s total of six with the Cowboys, there’s no question Hardy should stay, although for a reasonable contract that’s similar to the one he initially signed with Dallas.

Hardy is too versatile, too young and, like it or not, too talented to discard at this time.