Cowboys Nearly Traded for Ex-Pro Bowler Before Acquiring Bennett: Report

Leonard Williams

Getty Leonard Williams

The Dallas Cowboys made waves by striking a trade for Michael Bennett, but they had an even bigger splash planned with another veteran NFL defensive end.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Dallas was among several teams that expressed an interest in acquiring New York Jets D-lineman Leonard Williams. Schefter didn’t specify the level of the Cowboys’ diligence, saying only they eventually turned their attention to Bennett, “taking them out of the mix for Williams.”

“Still, the Jets have heard from other teams about Williams — and if one of those teams steps up with a strong enough offer, there’s a good chance Williams could be shipped out by the 4 p.m. ET deadline,” he wrote.

The No. 6 overall pick of the 2015 draft, Williams — who’s yet to miss a game as a pro — has tallied 122 tackles, 17 sacks, four pass deflections and two forced fumbles across five still-incomplete seasons. The 25-year-old earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2016 after logging a career-high seven sacks and 36 tackles.

It’s likely that Williams’ value dwarfs the 2021 conditional seventh-round pick surrendered to New England for Bennett’s services. And considering Bennett won’t start on the Cowboys’ defensive line, it made little sense to part with more significant capital, as Leo might have drawn.

The league’s trade deadline expires at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

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Jerry Jones Tweaks Pats Over Bennett

To say the Cowboys’ owner is pumped about Bennett’s arrival is a massive understatement. Following a questionable statement in which he claimed there’s “nothing negative” surrounding the ex-Eagles defender, who famously derided Jones (and the city of Dallas) in years past, Jerry fired a shot at New England, ribbing the Evil Empire for Bennett’s usage — or lack thereof.

“The scheme that they had him working in up in New England had a lot to do with us being able to trade for him,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Probably didn’t utilize what he can bring as much as we will be able to utilize it. Secondly, he likes to play. He wants on that field. And you say, ‘Well, duh. Doesn’t everybody?’ When he’s not on the field, he’s not as happy as when he can get out there and try to make plays.”

It’d be unfair to hold Bennett’s past against him at this point. He’s a high-upside, low-risk flier for a club with Super Bowl aspirations, and a defense with a need for his skill set. But, on the same token, one would be remiss not to point out that Jones’ estimation of Bennett, characteristically inflated, is dredged in revisionist history.

Bennett is expected to slide in as the primary backup to starting DEs DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn while occasionally kicking inside, spelling DTs Maliek Collins and Antwaun Woods.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL