The clock is ticking as the Dallas Cowboys begin training camp on July 27. Despite hinting at additional roster moves, the Cowboys have remained mostly quiet since the draft ended in April.
Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox outlined three pressing needs for the Cowboys to address heading into training camp. Swing tackle, center and linebacker are three positions mentioned as areas of opportunity for Dallas. With former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower still a free agent, the Cowboys could have a chance to add a two-time Pro Bowler to the mix.
“Defensively, Dallas could use a boost to its run defense. Dallas ranked just 23rd in yards per carry allowed (4.5) on the year and surrendered an average of 130 yards per game over the final 10 weeks of the regular season,” Knox wrote on July 11, 2022.
“Specifically, the Cowboys could use another run-stopping linebacker or two, as the depth behind Micah Parsons and Leighton Vander Esch is questionable—and Parsons spent a lot of his time last season serving as more of an edge-rusher. …Free-agent options include Dont’a Hightower, Joe Schobert and former Cowboys Anthony Hitchens.”
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Hightower Is a 2-Time Pro Bowler & 3-Time Super Bowl Champ
Hightower notched 64 tackles, four quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble during 15 starts for the Patriots in 2021. The linebacker earned just a 53.7 grade from Pro Football Focus for his play in 2021. Hightower sat out the 2020 season but notched a much better 69.4 score from PFF in 2019. Back in October 2018, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick explained what made Hightower so impactful throughout his career.
“Sometimes players, maybe they can’t even tell you how they know what the right thing to do is, they just know what the right thing to do is,” Belichick said at the time, per AL.com. “Sometimes they anticipate it. Sometimes it just comes to them just instinctively. But High’s a smart player. He can play multiple positions. The mental part of the game seems to come very easy for him, going between Mike or Sam or Will or defensive end or a different position in pass rush on third down. Assignment-wise, all those come pretty easily for him, and athletically he has a great combination of size, power, pass rush, zone, man coverage — he’s done all those things for us.”
Where Are the Cowboys’ Additional Roster Moves?
The Cowboys are expecting second-year linebacker Jabril Cox to return to play a key role in 2022, but Hightower would give the team a bit of veteran depth at the position. Heading into the draft, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones noted that more moves were likely on the way but since then Dallas has only signed players who will be fighting for a roster spot.
“I will say this, free agency’s not over,” Jones explained during the team’s April 26 pre-draft press conference. “There’s different waves of it and there’s still going to be opportunities to improve different areas of our team other than the draft or college free agency. I think that still can happen and probably will happen.
“I wouldn’t say we have any musts left in terms of having to take a particular position. At some point, obviously, you’d like to look up nine picks later and hope that you really helped yourself across the board in terms of not only improving yourself for frontline players but also depth and things of that nature. So, I don’t think we have any musts going into the draft.”