Hypothetical trades are dangerous business. They involve speculations on both sides of the transaction and almost never (at least in the NFL) come to fruition. But sometimes when a team like the Dallas Cowboys boasts a certain degree of depth at a specific position, it’s an idea that needs exploring.
The Dallas Cowboys are rich in pass-rushers. In addition to having the most efficient pass rusher on the planet, Micah Parsons, they also have one of the most underrated pass rushers in the league with DeMarcus Lawrence.
As if two starting defensive ends isn’t enough, the Cowboys also have last season’s second round pick Sam Williams, 26-year-old Dorance Armstrong, and rotational pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. on the roster. Any of the three could be starting DEs in the NFL.
The depth is so significant at DE, the Dallas Cowboys are expected to use Chauncey Golston and Viliami Fehoko (recently drafted defensive ends) inside at DT for the bulk of their snaps in 2023.
The saying goes, “you can never have too many pass-rushers” and for the most part that’s true. But when the top ascending pass-rushers keep losing snaps to players who don’t figure into the big picture, one could argue you can indeed have too many pass-rushers.
Sam Williams is widely regarded as the most promising young pass rusher on the roster. Sport DFW’s own, John Herndon recently profiled Williams, calling him the X-factor and predicting big things from the 24-year-old EDGE.
Williams was hand picked by Dan Quinn last draft cycle as the player he wanted to develop. Quinn wanted him so much the Dallas Cowboys were willing to risk over-drafting him just to ensure Quinn got his man.
As a rookie, Williams flashed. Per PFF player tracking, Williams logged 22 pressures and four sacks on just 166 pass-rushing snaps (13.3%). Considering Lawrence logged 55 pressures on 417 pass-rushing snaps (13.2 %), that’s excellent efficiency for a young and ultra-raw pass-rusher. It’s the kind of efficiency that makes you want to give him more snaps.
Armstrong counts the seventh-most against the salary cap this season which is a lofty figure since he’s likely no better than DE4 on the current roster.
Snaps are finite so for every extra snap that goes to Williams, one must be taken from someone else. Since Lawrence is the best all-around DE (run, pass, screen), you don’t want to steal snaps from him. And since Parsons is the best player on the team, you want to give him as many as he can handle. So you really have to steal from Armstrong and Fowler.
Yet Armstrong is seen as a rising talent in his own right. He’s coming off a career year despite splitting snaps. And as mentioned before, he’s only 26, so he’s just entering his physical prime. Unlike Fowler, Armstrong is a valuable asset someone would happily trade for.
Dorance Armstrong may be a progress stopper to Sam Williams so the Dallas Cowboys could trade Armstrong while his value is highest
Looking at the roster it’s fairly clear Armstrong does not factor into the long-term future of the Cowboys. They have Lawrence, Parsons and Williams under contract for two more seasons – unlike Armstrong who’s a free agent next March.
If Williams’ assent means decreased opportunities for Armstrong, the Cowboys may want to flip him for something of value while they still can. Regardless of whether that’s a position of need or a draft pick, it’s about cashing in on Armstrong’s value when it’s at its peak.
It’s not as if Armstrong is cheap either. He counts the seventh-most against the Cowboys’ salary cap this season, which is a lofty figure since he’s likely no better than DE4 on the current roster.
There’s also reason to believe he might have fallen into some success last season (8.5 sacks) and his pass rush win rate doesn’t quite back up his statistical impact (40 pressures in 325 pass-rush snaps = 12.3%).
If the Dallas Cowboys suffer multiple injuries across their defensive line they may wish they kept Armstrong, but they are already deep as a unit and would be well-served to give Sam Williams all the snaps he can handle behind Lawrence and Parsons.
If Armstrong is due for a down season, now may be the perfect time to sell while his stock is high.