Jason Hatcher

Jason Hatcher is all but gone in free agency leaving the defensive line in desperate need

Cowboys 2014 Free Agency Needs: Defensive line

By Matthew Postins


RattleandHumSports.com is breaking down the free agent needs at every position group for the 2014 Dallas Cowboys. Today it’s the defensive line.

Ends; DeMarcus Ware (starter), George Selvie (starter), Jarius Wynn (backup), Kyle Wilber (backup), Edgar Jones (backup), Everette Brown (backup). Tackles: Jason Hatcher (starter), Nick Hayden (starter), Corey Irvin (backup), Frank Kearse (backup).

Other notable players: Anthony Spencer (spent entire season on IR), Ben Bass (spent most of season on IR), Tyrone Crawford (spent entire season on IR); Jay Ratliff (injured and release during season).

Cowboys defensive linemen entering free agency: Spencer, Hatcher, Wynn.

Free agency need?: 9 (out of 10, 10 being most pressing).

Why? Did you see the Cowboys defensive line in 2013? The only things that kept it from being an absolute train wreck was tackle Jason Hatcher, end George Selvie and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who found a way to make the 19 different defensive ends and tackles the Cowboys played last season work as best he could. Well, Hatcher is a free agent and is looking for a big contract the Cowboys can’t provide. Selvie and Marinelli are, fortunately, under contract. Hopefully owner and general manager Jerry Jones learned that if he’s going to play the Cover 2 defense he needs a large posse of defensive ends and tackles for depth purposes. If the Cowboys decide to cut end DeMarcus Ware for cap purposes, then the need moves up to a 10. But right now Ware is the only member of this unit with any long-term NFL success.

Possible Targets: Anyone with a pulse? Certainly the Cowboys could entertain re-signing Hatcher and Anthony Spencer. Hatcher is unlikely to be cheap. Spencer, coming off microfracture knee surgery, might come back, but it would have to be at a deep discount from last  year’s $10 million. Last week we explored three potential free-agent options in end Israel Idonije and tackles Clinton McDonald and Peria Jerry. All three are likely to be had at or close to the NFL veteran minimum, though McDonald’s price could go up if the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. Chicago tackle Henry Melton is also getting some mention locally, but in some circles he’s considered the No. 1 tackle on the market. At end other options could include Tyson Jackson, Justin Tuck, Willie Young and Keyunta Dawson. At tackle you can keep in mind players like Kevin Williams, Ryan Pickett and Earl Mitchell.

Looking ahead: The Cowboys must address this position in March, not in July once they’ve lost players to injury. The Cowboys should also spend at least two picks on the defensive line and not be afraid to pick a player that might not be a fit scheme-wise if they have a track record, especially at the tackle position. The Cowboys are also counting on a wealth of young players developing into something better in 2014, including Kyle Wilber, Ben Bass and Tyrone Crawford. Both Bass and Crawford missed the 2013 season with injuries. This unit has to get healthier and Jones has to assemble more options in case they can’t.

Next up: Linebackers.

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