Cowboys Acquire ‘Energizer Bunny’ Pass-Rusher in Free Agency

Tarell Basham with Jets

Getty Tarell Basham with Jets

After diligently upgrading its interior defense, the Dallas Cowboys shifted focus to the edges and brought aboard some pass-rushing firepower.

On Thursday, the Cowboys signed former New York Jets defensive end Tarell Basham, his agency confirmed via Twitter.

“Both @kenny_zuckerman and I are excited to welcome @TarellBasham to the @dallascowboys,” tweeted rep Aaron Hernandez.

According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, Basham’s deal is for two years and worth $6.5 million. Additional terms are not yet available.

Basham is the fifth outside player — and third defender — the Cowboys have added since NFL free agency opened Monday. The team also signed defensive linemen Brent Urban and Carlos Watkins, offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe, and long snapper Jake McQuaide.

Prioritizing in-house matters first, Dallas previously tendered DL Antwaun Woods and fellow exclusive-rights free agent wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and released veteran punter Chris Jones. The club also retained three of its own: CB Jourdan Lewis, who landed a three-year, $16.5 million pact; CB C.J. Goodwin, who received a two-year, $3.5 million deal; and WR Noah Brown, who signed a one-year agreement.

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Background on Basham

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

He was waived by the Colts in 2018 and subsequently claimed by the Jets. His playing time increased as he logged 69 tackles (37 solo, eight for loss), 19 QB hits, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one interception over 42 games, including 12 starts, through 2020.

“He’s our Energizer Bunny,” ex-Jets head coach Adam Gase said in December.

As a collegian, Basham (6-4, 266) collected 152 tackles (75 solo, 38.5 for loss), 27 sacks, five forced fumbles and five pass breakups in 50 career games for the Bobcats. He was billed as a mid-round 2017 draft prospect following a nondescript showing at that year’s Scouting Combine.

“Basham has the strength and length to play as a 4-3 base end or as a 3-4 rush linebacker, but his pass rush approach will need to be sharpened as he lacks the flexibility to bend the edge and attack the pocket with athleticism alone,” his scouting report read. “Basham may never produce a high sack total, but his alpha playing style will appeal to teams looking to groom a solid backup with starter’s potential.”

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Fit in Dallas

Basham, 27, provides a modicum of insurance in case the Cowboys cannot re-sign free-agent edge rusher Aldon Smith, who tallied five sacks in his long-awaited return to football last season.

If he sticks at outside linebacker, Basham will also represent a fairly significant upgrade on Luke Gifford, the penciled-in backup to OLB Jaylon Smith, and could see time on passing downs working opposite $105 million defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, the bedrock of new coordinator Dan Quinn’s unit.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL