Dallas Cowboys are making the right moves to become contenders

Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Free agency officially started on March 15th and as expected, the Dallas Cowboys are moving at their own pace when it comes to signing free agents. First and foremost, the Cowboys front office prioritized signing their own free agents: safety Donovan Wilson, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and placed a second-round tender on lineman Terence Steele.

That is just the beginning as the Cowboys are expected to make other moves during the free agency period. What nobody saw coming was the unexpected move trading for 5x Pro Bowl cornerback, Stephon Gilmore. The former 2019 DPOY (defensive player of the year) is a welcomed addition to a Dallas Cowboys defense that has led the league in takeaways two years in a row.

Pairing Gilmore opposite of  All Pro cornerback, Trevon Diggs, immediately boosts the Cowboys secondary as one of the best in the league. Add up and coming corner DaRon Bland to the equation, and the Dallas Cowboys have three dominant ball-hawking corners! My Gawd!

With the NFC being up for grabs, the Dallas Cowboys are positioning themselves to be legitimate contenders in the entire league and much more.

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Dallas Cowboys defense is championship caliber

The Dallas Cowboys acquiring Gilmore and continuing to keep key players on their defense is one of the smartest moves this organization has made. Unlike Dallas’ offense, the defense does not have as many gaping holes that cause for a major concern. This is a defense that finished the season ranked 5th in the league and is only getting better.

In reality, Dallas’ defense really needs a dominant defensive tackle to eat up space, which will free up LVE and the rest of the linebackers to feast on opposing running backs and quarterbacks. Re-signing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins should be a top priority in addition to finding a younger nose tackle for the future.

Filling this void will make the defense dominant on all three levels: the ability to stop the run, pressure/sack the quarterback, linebackers that can play sideline to sideline, and a secondary that can cover and force turnovers. When it comes to Dallas’ secondary, having players that can cover can lead to coverage sacks, a delicious treat for edge rushers Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.

Because Dallas’ defense has improved each year under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the expectation is it will be even better in year three with his fingerprints on the type of players he likes. Better yet, the players love playing for Quinn, one of the primary reasons LVE re-signed.

As I mentioned above, Gilmore is an upgrade and makes the secondary one of the best in the NFL or at least at the tail end of the top-10. But what makes this secondary even better is that slot corner Jourdan Lewis should be available for training camp or at the start of the season after recovering from a season-ending foot injury. Ironically, Lewis injured his foot getting an interception.

So, the secondary has four ball-hawking corners in Diggs, Gilmore, Bland, and Lewis. The critics like to pick on Lewis for different reasons, but the former 3rd round pick has a knack for the ball and is a thumper against the run. After he went down with an injury, the secondary was not the same and his absence was felt.

Fellow sportdfw.com writer, John Herndon made an interesting observation when he said that Dallas should move Lewis to safety because he plays better facing the ball, which fits his skillset better. Makes sense.

Then the secondary also has Wilson, Malik Hooker, and Jayron Kearse. All three are playmakers in their own right but serve a different purpose based off of their strengths. Wilson is better playing in the box than in coverage, Hooker is good in coverage, and Kearse can play in the box, cover the back end like a centerfielder, and most importantly, snatch passes out of the sky like a hawk eyeing his next meal.

The depth is there, too, in the secondary with promising players like Israel Mukuamu (S), Markquese Bell (S), Nahshon Wright (CB), and Kelvin Joseph (CB). I know Joseph has been a disappointment or has not lived up to the hype as a cornerback, but he is another candidate that could be moved to safety because he has the talent to do it.

Joseph is truly a special teams ace, so he will remain on the roster for that purpose alone. What he lacks in the secondary makes up for it tenfold with his special teams play. 

The one hidden gem about Dallas’ defense is its depth at all positions.  In addition to LVE, the linebacker’s unit consist of Damone Clark, Jabril Cox, Devin Harper, and Luke Gifford. Clark was impressive in his rookie season, Cox is a promising player in his own right (expect to be a starter next season), and Harper/Gifford are solid players.

Because Dallas’ defense has improved each year under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the expectation is it will be even better in year three with his fingerprints on the type of players he likes. Better yet, the players love playing for Quinn, one of the primary reasons LVE re-signed.

In conclusion

With the defense far ahead of the offense in terms of upgrading/adding players, the Dallas Cowboys can draft for depth purposes and BPA (Best Player Available). This luxury affords them the opportunity to avoid the dreaded label of “drafting for needs” because it can pigeon hold a team and miss out on a truly great player that trumps that theory.

For example, Dallas is not pressed to find Ezekiel Elliott’s replacement with its 26th pick; instead, they have options galore to choose from to satisfy their desires on both sides of the ball and depending on how the draft unfolds, they could trade out of the first round altogether to draft a player to their liking in the second round.

If the Grinch from Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers) is traded to the New York Jets as being reported, then the NFC will truly be wide open because there are no quarterbacks to fear besides the much improved Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles. Even with Hurts becoming an MVP candidate, he is not on the level with Rodgers, and besides, Dak Prescott is 8-3 against the Eagles.

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This bodes well for Dallas’ defense because it is one of the best in the NFC with playmakers at all three levels. Yeah, they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, but the 49ers offense only scored 19 points, rookie sensation Brock Purdy was average at best, and the 49ers best offensive weapons, Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey, were held in check with their rushing and receiving yards.

Therefore, imagine all of the positive strides this defense can make in 2023. Something Cowboys Nation can look forward, too.