FRISCO, Texas – If anyone needed a signal that the Cowboys are in a different era, it doesn't get much clearer than this.
Continuing their efforts to revamp their defense under first-year head coach Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys have agreed to terms with veteran defensive tackle Dontari Poe after spending part of the week finalizing language in the deal.
Poe still must take a physical and sign a contract for the deal to become official, but he's expected to big part of the Cowboys' defensive front in 2020.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Poe isn't just a defensive tackle. The eight-year veteran is a nose tackle in every sense of the word, tipping the scale at an impressive 6-3, 346 pounds – the type of space eater the Cowboys haven't employed in quite some time.
McCarthy has hinted for months that he and his staff, with Mike Nolan at defensive coordinator, prefer a larger mold of defensive tackle. Even still, this is quite a departure from previous years, as former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli preferred smaller defensive tackles who could get up the field faster.
Poe has done a little bit of everything since being taken No. 11 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He quickly became one of the best pure nose tackles in football during his time in Kansas City's 3-4 scheme, earning his way to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014.
From there, he spent a year in Atlanta, where he collected 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the Falcons' four-man front. He signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Carolina Panthers in 2018. This past fall he posted 22 tackles and four sacks across 11 games, but the Panthers opted not to pick up the option on the third and final year of his contract.
Poe should be intriguing to Cowboys fans for more than just being the team's biggest defensive tackle since Jay Ratliff. Specifically, his size and strength allow him to anchor two types of scheme. As noted, he has extensive experience lining up as a true nose, or a zero technique, in a 3-4 defense. He has also played as a tilted nose, or a one technique, in Atlanta and Carolina's 4-3 schemes.
McCarthy has said before that he intends to have four down linemen in his defense, but both he and Nolan have allowed that they'd like to be multiple. Poe could help them do just that.
To this point, it's the clearest signal so far about just how different this new tenure might be.