Cowboys Draw Heavy Criticism for ‘Worst Signing’ in Free Agency

Tarell Basham

Getty Tarell Basham

The Dallas Cowboys are coming under fire following last month’s addition of defensive end/outside linebacker Tarell Basham.

Bleacher Report’s Alex Kay pegged the Basham signing as the Cowboys’ worst move of the 2021 NFL signing period. Kay does not feel as if Basham, he of 42 career games with the New York Jets, adequately satisfies one of the team’s most mystifying roster quandaries — its pass rush.

Dallas had plenty of issues to address, but it failed to make flashy signings to fill the gaps. Instead of getting a marquee pass-rusher, the Cowboys’ biggest splurge was for a raw talent in defensive end Tarell Basham.

Basham, a four-year veteran who has just 7.5 sacks during his career, feels like a bit of a settle for the ‘Boys. While there is still undeniable upside in signing the 27-year-old to a two-year, $5.5 million contract, he isn’t the big-time playmaker who could push Dallas to the next level.

The Cowboys should still be a viable contender as long as Prescott can stay healthy, but they didn’t load up for a Super Bowl run and still need to find a consistent pass-rusher to take the defense up a notch.

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Background Info

Basham inked a two-year, $6.5 million deal with Dallas on March 18. The newly-turned 27-year-old joined a stable of imported free-agent defenders, including safeties Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Jayron Kearse, and linemen Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban.

A 2017 third-round pick out of Ohio, Basham entered the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, for whom he would tally seven tackles, four quarterback hits, and two sacks across 16 appearances.

He was waived by the Colts in 2018 and claimed by the Jets. His playing time rose as the “Energizer Bunny” made 69 tackles (37 solo, eight for loss), 19 QB hits, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception in 42 games — 12 starts — through 2020.

“It isn’t a coincidence the Cowboys are bringing in a collection of high-energy defenders with Dan Quinn at the helm,” NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks wrote of the signing. “Basham is an ideal cultural fit as a hard-working edge defender with a non-stop motor and explosive athletic traits. He plays like his hair is on fire from snap to whistle and his energetic playing style should make him the perfect complement to Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory on the edges. Moreover, Basham could carve out a role as a pass rush specialist that enables the Cowboys to utilize some unique sub-packages to create chaos and confusion at the line of scrimmage on passing downs. As a spot starter/situational player, Basham is an intriguing option to add to the roster.”

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Crawford Says ‘Goodbye’

Basham was added, in part, as a counter to the retirement of Cowboys veteran DE Tyrone Crawford, who officially announced Tuesday that he’s hanging up his cleats after nine seasons — all in Dallas.

“Wow, has it really been 9 years? Feels like yesterday I was getting my #70 jersey and trying to Earn that Star on my helmet!” Crawford opened in a lengthy statement posted to Instagram. “It’s really been a great run and I’m beyond thankful and blessed to have been part of the Dallas Cowboys’ amazing organization. I never took one day for granted as a Cowboy.”

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL