Is Gerald McCoy a wise investment?
Every team uses free agency as an opportunity to bring in role players for the sake of competition or spotting a certain snap count. When the Cowboys brought in McCoy last offseason, the common belief was that he would be starting. With the exception of Tyrone Crawford and Dontari Poe, most everyone else on the rotation was incredibly young and in need of development. (This includes Antwaun Woods)
After everything that transpired in 2020, if the Cowboys brought back McCoy he would likely start. This means he’d be starting over former 2nd-round pick Trysten Hill. Hill was not good last year before he tore his ACL, but the team does run a chance of having his progress stopped because of McCoy. With other 3-technique options available later in the 2021 draft class as well, that now becomes at least two young defensive linemen hanging on the bench when they should be gaining valuable experience.
When you account for the multiple looks that Dan Quinn likes to utilize on passing downs and inevitable NASCAR packages, McCoy would be looking at a significant amount of playing time. This is more concerning than it sounds.
McCoy is better than every defensive linemen in Dallas currently, but he also isn’t necessarily dominant either. The phrase “you get what you pay for” could not be more pertinent than with this situation. If you sign McCoy to a cheap contract, you’re getting someone who can be a factor at times, but not consistently.
The last two years, the Cowboys have seriously struggled with generating pressure from the interior defensive line because they have people doing exactly what I mentioned above. In 2019, the best interior rusher was Maliek Collins who tallied four sacks and 21 pressures; the next interior lineman had 10. In 2020, the best defensive tackle was Tyrone Crawford and he only had two sacks and eight pressures.
In 2019, Gerald McCoy and Maliek Collins had nearly similar stats. One was forced out the door while the other was brought in for multiple years. (You see the issue here?)
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Much like the Jason Witten situation, the team brought in a veteran to fill depth at a position. With Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz having little experience at the time, the team felt compelled to bring in some veteran experience. What it resulted in was Witten getting most of the snaps and severely limiting the offense. A year later, Dalton Schultz was a top 10 tight end in the league.
Bargain hunting can be a useful tool to fill the roster with solid players. However, if bargain hunting results in chasing starters who are marginally better than the athletes in house, the team’s room for progression is small while their room for regression is significant. That is why the Gerald McCoy signing doesn’t work.
The team currently has two good edge defenders in DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. If the team were to grab a good defensive tackle in free agency or by trade, the front seven would seriously help out a young, but also depleted secondary that is in need of serious talent.
So to answer the original question, if given the opportunity to sign Gerald McCoy to a cheap contract, the answer should be no. The only instance where it would be yes is if the team is willing to invest in a more expensive and better prospect on the interior defensive line.
Based on front office precedent, that likely isn’t to occur. However, with new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in house, perhaps a little shakeup might be in place.