The question for the Dallas Cowboys is whether their defense was exposed against the Denver Broncos, or if it was a brief lapse in an otherwise solid season. The Cowboys gave up 407 total yards to the Broncos, including 190 rushing yards to Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.
Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson believes the Broncos were able to expose some of the weaknesses of the Cowboys defense. Robinson added that the Cowboys are “retooling” their defense this offseason, with a particular focus on the linebacker position.
“Number one, the defense got killed by the run game. I mean, they just got beat to hell,” Robinson detailed on the You Pod to Win the Game podcast on November 8. “Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon beat ’em up, and I’m talking about, go back to I want to say it was the Melvin Gordon touchdown where Micah Parsons just got destroyed on the edge. Like I said, Javonte Williams had a day, they almost ran for 200 yards. So, there’s that aspect where defensively, even though the Cowboys did get some pressure on Teddy Bridgewater at times, they never were in check with that run game, which is a huge problem.
“And by the way, I’ll be honest with you here, if you want to talk about what’s going to happen next offseason for the Cowboys. There’s already talk about the retooling that’s gotta happen with some of the run game, the linebackers. Stay tuned for that, because the second level of that defense is definitely going to get some attention this offseason.”
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The Cowboys Are Projected to be Nearly $9 Million Over the Cap in 2022
The Cowboys already began this process with the release of Jaylon Smith, but the challenge is the team is projected to be over the cap next season. According to Spotrac, the Cowboys are a projected $8.8 million over the salary cap for 2022. The Cowboys will clearly have to make roster moves to bring this number down, but Dallas is likely to once again be bargain shoppers in free agency regardless of the future cuts.
Rookie Micah Parsons is one of the few certainties the Cowboys have on defense, and Jabril Cox also showed flashes before sustaining a season-ending ACL injury. One of the biggest questions the Cowboys face is what to do with their own free-agent linebackers. The Cowboys declined Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option but continue to emphasize their desire to bring back the linebacker.
Former Falcons linebacker Keanu Neal has also been a key part of the Cowboys defense this season and will hit free agency again in 2022. Dallas may be forced to choose between the two players when free agency hits.
Gregory Is Among the Cowboys’ Top Free Agents
Dallas could look outside their roster for solutions, but the Cowboys have a number of key players that will hit free agency. Just focusing on the defense, Neal and Vander Esch will be joined by fellow free agents Damontae Kazee, Randy Gregory and Malik Hooker. The Athletic’s Bob Sturm believes defensive end Randy Gregory should be priority No. 1 in free agency.
“This is the best player on the list at the position most in need,” Sturm detailed. “I don’t know the cost and I certainly don’t know how they find the cash. I also don’t know if he provides any sort of financial discount (or repellent to other bidders), but if I take the 21 names and list the one that has to stay, it is Gregory and I don’t think the competition is close.”