Dallas Cowboys 2023 offseason: All of the defensive pieces matter

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys were busy before the NFL league year began. They made a series of moves to keep their core defense together and strengthen it.

Let’s do some Dallas Cowboys musing of the latest moves and explore what else is to come.

Stephon Gilmore

The move was one no one saw coming.

The Cowboys gave up a 2023 fifth-round compensatory pick for Stephon Gilmore. This was a sneaky good move and one I would make any day of the week.

Gilmore is no longer the player he once was at his peak, but he’s not that far off from it. He is a smart and savvy player. Give a look at this one-on-one video sit down with the great Brian Baldinger.

Four things stood out for me in this video segment.

“Trust your teammates. Trust your ability. Film study. And accountability.”

Dallas have been looking for a bigger boundary corner before Dan Quinn was hired. Well, they got him. You make this kind of move any day of the week.

This likely signals the end of the Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis era. Both have been solid NFL contributors. No matter what Cowboys twitter thinks. I know there is a lot of love at the star for Jourdan Lewis. But the reality is he is still has the road to recovery from his Lisfranc injury ahead of him. We shall see what the future holds for him.  There is no need to decide his fate just yet.

The draft selections of Kelvin Joseph and Nahshon Wright haven’t worked out the way Dallas would have wanted but drafting is not a pure science. The kids are still on rookie deals.

Both can play special teams and they can learn from a consummate professional in Gilmore on how to be better.

The smarter teams will admit their mistakes and work to correct them. This is what Dallas has done.

What are the Cowboys getting in Stephon Gilmore? Gilmore has lost some athletic ability, but that is bound to happen with age. He is a student of the game and a heady player.

He can still play man coverage.

He is a willing tackler with a wealth of playoff experience. Big game clutch performer with championship pedigree. What is there not to like? The Dallas secondary was good last season and barring injury, it has gotten much better.

If you have 8 minutes to spare. Check out the Football Scout’s video breakdown of a few select plays from Stephon Gilmore’s 2022 tape. It is a nice primer of what to the Dallas Cowboys expect from him in 2023. I recommend you give it a watch. It is well worth your time.

Age is a harsh reality in the NFL. We can’t sweep that aside. I believe Dallas have been attempting to add players with championship experience to show the way to this current group of Cowboys. Just like the Jason Peters signing helped Tyler Smith. I believe the Gilmore trade will have a massive ripple effect on the entire defense.

A sneaky good trade by the Dallas Cowboys’ front office. Very similar to the Robert Quinn trade made in 2019.

Donovan Wilson

I will admit that I was in the small camp of letting Wilson walk. Dallas has good depth at safety and some kids who can play, but the Cowboys kept Wilson. I spent the rest of the evening doing a thorough analysis into his tape.

What stands out the most is the sheer violence he unleashes while playing. No other defensive back has the physical edge he has. While Wilson is not the biggest safety, but he plays bigger than his size. His teammates feed off of the tone he sets.

If McCarthy envisions building a heavyweight bully, I can understand why he was brought back into the fold.

Wilson’s biggest weakness is playing in space. The further away from the LOS, he is the least effective he becomes, but while his coverage skills are not elite, he is no Roy Williams in coverage, either.

Wilson’s contract is good for both sides.

That is win win. Nothing to be mad at here. The Dallas Cowboys keep their three headed dragon known as the big nickel together for one more year.

Leighton Vander Esch

This was huge because the Dallas defense was not the same when Vander Esch was out for a few games and we saw the impact it had on the defense. It wasn’t good.

Health is key here, of course. As long as he can maintain his health. Vander Esch has proven he can be an impact player for the Dallas defense.

"“I’m so happy to be coming back to Dallas. One of the big reasons is I just love playing for Dan and Mike.” – Leighton Vander Esch"

Vander Esch’s deal is even better than the Wilson deal.

The first year is guaranteed. Considering his neck issues, this was a wise move on the Dallas Cowboys part.

These moves can enable the Dallas Cowboys to select the best talent in next month’s NFL draft and not reach for a need. We haven’t seen them do this during the McCarthy era. They have key in on the best talent regardless of position.

So, what can we expect to be the next moves? I believe the next two are attempting to keep Dante Fowler and Johnathan Hawkins.

The offensive side of the ball will be addressed via the draft. Not pushing aside, a defensive player or three being selected. I believe a young alpha nose tackle is needed, edge and cornerback.

This was an excellent start by the Dallas Cowboys. There is still plenty more work to be done. But no one should be complaining about this.

Free Agent Defensive Target

The first day of free agency is over and the money will start to shrink. There are a few nice nice targets who can be had for lower than market value prices.

Nose Tackle A’Shawn Robinson

I am not against bringing back Big Hank but I would double down and add a younger game wrecker in A’Shawn Robinson. The Rams are not going to contend any time soon. This is a opportunity for Dallas to add a nose tackle to pair with Hankins.

Robinson can do a little of everything. His forte is defending the run but he can offer a little bit of pass rush, too.

The 6-4, 330-pound space eater suffered a torn meniscus in Week 11 last season but I see no reason why they would effect him for the upcoming season.