IRVING, Texas – Not that anyone needed the confirmation, but
If his fantastic level of play on the field didn’t say enough, Hatcher said it himself Tuesday. In the Cowboys’ locker room, a reporter told Hatcher that team executive vice president Stephen Jones had said on Thanksgiving that Hatcher had outplayed his current contract, which expires after this season.
“Absolutely I did – thank you, Stephen, for recognizing that,” he said.
Hatcher is in the final month of a $6 million deal he signed in 2011. To say his output in the Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense has improved since then would be an understatement. His tackle total of 40 is the second-highest of his eight-year career, and he leads the team in sacks with nine.
Pressed for specifics about Jones’ comments, though, Hatcher was hesitant.
“I don’t want to just talk about my contract, man. I just want to focus on these next couple of games, man, and let the chips fall where they may,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. I think my play will take care of everything it is – there’s nothing you can really do about the situation or my contract, so there’s no need to talk about it.”
He’s not wrong about his play. From the three-technique spot on the Cowboys’ line, Hatcher is the NFC’s third-leading sack artist from the defensive tackle position. Among defensive tackles, he leads the league in sacks – a far cry from his production as a 3-4 nose tackle.
“It creates a lot of one-on-ones, so if you’re a decent pass rusher you can make some head in this scheme,” he said. “God blessed me to play this position, and it worked out well for me. I’ve just got to keep getting better.”
His availability is certain to draw some interest, especially given the success he’s had since switching positions. Hatcher said he plans to explore that interest when the season is over, though he reiterated his focus on finishing the season well.
“I’m going to test the market – I’m going to test the market. But you guys just leave me alone about my contract. I just once to focus on – I’m a Cowboy,” he said. “I’ve got a star on my helmet. I’m not trying to think about that. I’ll let it take care of itself when it happens. I’ve got four games to play, to be the best three-technique in the league and help my team go to the playoffs. That’s my approach.”
Of course, Hatcher’s age and the wear-and-tear on his body are sure to play a factor in whatever his future holds. He’s missed one game this season because of injury, and he’s been battling a stinger for a large portion of the year. He’ll be 32 when the 2014 season starts.
It raises an interesting question, which one reporter brought up: what if Hatcher had played three-technique, his college position at Grambling State, from the get-go?
“Man … that’s all I’ve got to say,” he said.