The Cowboys used the franchise tag on Lawrence and signed Ealy to a one-year deal.
“We’re excited about Kony,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We spent a lot of time on him coming out in the draft. We visited with him a lot, and we worked him out. He was one of those players we had targeted. At the time, we traded up for DeMarcus Lawrence and that worked out well for us. Kony went to Carolina and had a good career, very impactful in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. We think he’s a good, young player with a lot of potential. We’re going to bring him in here.
“One of the things we try to do with our team is promote competition at every position. That really is the reason for the decisions that we made in the offseason, to create a competitive environment at every position across the position. We feel like that brings out the best in everybody.”
Ealy, 26, has 15 sacks in the regular season in his career. But he has five in five postseason games, including three in the Super Bowl loss to the Broncos to end the 2015 season.
“He’s a young, developing player, and we feel like he’s got a lot of football left in him,” Garrett said.
Ealy played in the Jets’ 3-4 defense last season. But in his first three seasons, Ealy played defensive end in Carolina, so the Cowboys are confident he fits their Tampa 2 scheme.
“That’s always a challenge when you’re talking about players you get from other teams, players you get coming out in the draft,” Garrett said. “What their exposure has been, what system they’ve played in. We’re fortunate that Kony has played in a system similar to ours in Carolina. We saw him as a four-down type of player coming out of school. So we don’t feel like he has any physical limitations. He’s been exposed to some different systems now as a pro, so we feel like that will benefit him.”