If the cap-flush Dallas Cowboys prefer to pinch a few more pennies, perhaps to pay an avalanche of in-house free agents, they may move on from a defensive mainstay.
“Crawford is one of those lifetime Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will hate to say goodbye to, so it’s possible Dallas could bring him back at a lower price,” Rosenthal wrote.
It’s entirely realistic to think Crawford’s time in a Dallas uniform is coming to a close. He’s entering the final year of the $45 million extension he inked in 2015, due to collect $8 million in base salary and count $9.1 million against the salary cap. By designating him a pre-June 1 cut, the Cowboys would clear $8 million in cap space and absorb only $1.1 million in dead money.
This is a massive chunk of change for an organization that hopes to retain unsigned quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones — among others.
A 2012 third-round draft pick, Crawford has totaled 113 tackles, 23 sacks and six pass deflections across 96 games (76 starts) with Dallas. He’s played an entire regular season three times in his eight-year career.
Crawford appeared in just four games this past campaign, notching three tackles and a sack, before hip bursitis forced him to injured reserve. He soon after underwent reparative surgery on his hips, which had plagued the 30-year-old since 2018.
Stout against the run though far from a sack-master, Crawford likely would need to accept a salary reduction to preserve his roster spot. The team can ill afford another bloated DL contract following the $105 million windfall that DeMarcus Lawrence received.
For now, Crawford tentatively is penciled in as a starter opposite Lawrence. But the Cowboys have veteran midseason pickup Michael Bennett under contract for 2020, and they’re said to be “aggressive” in attempting to re-sign reigning sack leader Robert Quinn, an unrestricted free agent.
Other Dallas defensive linemen slated to hit the open market include Antwaun Woods, Daniel Ross, Christian Covington, Kerry Hyder, and Maliek Collins. Collins, Hyder, and Covington are UFAs, while Woods is an exclusive-rights free agent and Ross a restricted free agent.
The Cowboys will take roughly $77 million of available cap room into the NFL’s signing period, which kicks off March 16 when the legal tampering window opens.
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Broncos to Sign Top Cowboys Free Agent to Megadeal?
A needy NFL suitor has emerged as the rumored front-runner for Byron Jones’ services. According to Cecil Lammey of 104.3 The Fan, the Cowboys‘ star CB is expected to be a “top target” of the Denver Broncos.
Lammey added that “rumblings since the Senior Bowl” have linked Jones to Denver, and the situation is “worth keeping an eye on” with Dallas prioritizing Prescott and Cooper.
Piggybacking on Lammey’s report, Bleacher Report predicted Jones will ink a five-year contract with the Broncos.
Dallas’ first-round draft pick in 2015 (No. 27 overall), Jones wrapped up his rookie contract, earning $6.266 million from his fifth-year option. A Pro Bowler and second-team All-Pro in 2018, he took a step back this season, making 46 tackles, six pass deflections, and one forced fumble. He failed to snag an interception for the second year in a row but did earn positive coverage marks from Pro Football Focus.
Aside from the Broncos, the Philadelphia Eagles reportedly will “aggressively” pursue Jones this offseason.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL