Even before the Broncos rag-dolled Tom Brady and Cam Newton in back-to-back games, NFL teams knew the importance of having a potent pass rush. Last year, the Cowboys justified their decision to sign controversial defensive end Greg Hardy by pointing to the importance of having good pass rushers.
Entering the 2016 offseason, the Cowboys need more. Badly.
The only defensive end under contract for next season with a career regular-season sack is Demarcus Lawrence, who had back surgery earlier this year. Now, second-year defensive end Randy Gregory has been suspended four games to start the 2016 season for multiple violations of the substance-abuse policy.
The Lawrence surgery and Gregory suspension underscore the team’s needs at the position, and these developments potentially give Hardy, an unrestricted free agent on March 9, some leverage.
It’s unclear how much leverage Hardy has, because it’s unclear whether any other team would want him. A year ago, the Buccaneers were the only team other than the Cowboys who were interested in Hardy, but the Bucs wanted to bring him in to answer all questions about the 2014 domestic violence incident that triggered 15 games on paid leave that year and a four-game unpaid suspension in 2015.
Regardless of whether the Cowboys keep Hardy, they’d be wise to consider using the fourth overall pick in the draft not on a new quarterback but on a pass rusher. But Hardy’s past success could make the Cowboys more willing to bring Hardy back, especially in light of the clear needs the Cowboys now have at the position.