The Dallas Cowboys have a burden of riches on the defensive line but a trade can adjust the depth chart and bring in a new asset.
Dallas hasn’t shied away from trades this offseason, moving for wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. However, they haven’t traded a player away yet. That could be due to not wanting to offload anyone, or it could be the Cowboys waiting for the right deal.
Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine believes that trade could involve the Atlanta Falcons and defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. In exchange for the veteran pass rusher, Ballentine thinks Dallas could get the No. 75 overall pick.
“Armstrong is in the final year of his contract and could be a costly extension if he puts up another season like the one he just had,” Ballentine writes. “If the Cowboys let him walk in free agency, the best thing that could happen would be a compensatory third-round pick at the end of the round… For the Falcons, it’s worth considering giving up the draft capital. Free agency did not bring them much help in the pass-rushing department, and they had just 21 sacks last season.”
It does make sense on paper, but any NFL fan knows you can’t ever have too much depth at pass rusher. Armstrong is in a tight squeeze, but he’s possibly too valuable to let go.
Armstrong Contributes in a Big Way
With Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence leading the way, the guys behind them don’t necessarily get that much recognition. But they should, as the Cowboys’ stout defense wouldn’t have been as dangerous without them.
In fact, Armstrong is arguably the No. 2 guy heading into 2023. He surpassed Lawrence in sacks with 8.5, and Pro Football Reference shows that he was also second in QB hits with 16.
Armstrong is representative of a trio that was a massive help to the Cowboys defense: himself, Dante Fowler Jr. and 2022 rookie Sam Williams. The three pass rushers combined for a total of 18.5 sacks, chipping in four forced fumbles in the process.
Dallas can trade Armstrong and get another young DE to alternate with Williams and Fowler Jr., but 8.5 sacks is not anything to take for granted, regardless of how or who is producing them.
Cowboys Would Take Dead Cap Hit in Trade
While “cashing out” on Armstrong before his two-year deal expires may make sense, it’s not like the Cowboys are just getting the Falcons’ third-round pick (or any pick for that matter) without additional cost.
Spotrac shows that Armstrong’s contract is set up in a way that would leave the Cowboys with a $3 million dead cap hit if they traded the former Kansas star. That’s not an astronomical price, but it’s certainly a factor considering the Cowboys have $16.74 million in cap space (without counting recent deals like DT Johnathan Hankins’ contract.)
Investing in the future is always important, but keeping Armstrong means that the Cowboys can hopefully replicate or improve his 2022 season. Further, it’s not like they can’t still take a DE in this year’s draft to replace him should he walk after the 2023 season.
That’s not to mention that the Cowboys can also bet on Armstrong to have a strong start to 2023 and then trade him to a needy team for even better value this fall. Armstrong isn’t a bad idea for a trade piece, but dealing him in a draft trade just feels premature.