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Despite FA Moves, Cowboys Have Big DE Needs


(Editor's Note: With the NFL Draft fast approaching, is taking a comprehensive look at each position on the roster: free agency additions, departures, and what the draft might hold. Today, we begin the series with defensive end.)

Need Meter (1 lowest, 5 highest): 4

Depth Check: If the Cowboys had to play a game right now – which they certainly don't and can't even conduct a practice if they wanted to – there would be some big question marks on the line, particularly at defensive end. Sure, they've got DeMarcus Lawrence coming back as one of the NFL's best pass-rushers, but they lost Robert Quinn in free agency. More importantly, they lost Quinn's 11.5 sacks. Now the Cowboys are hoping that a pair of pass-rushers – Aldon Smith and Randy Gregory – can both get reinstated by the NFL and perhaps return to form. For Smith, who hasn't played since 2015, just getting close to the player he once was would be interesting, considering he had a 19-sack season with the 49ers. But the Cowboys simply can't rely on either player at this point, meaning behind Lawrence is just Dorance Armstrong, Joe Johnson and Jalen Jelks.

Prospect Preview: One player who keeps popping up on random mock drafts at No. 17 is LSU's defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (6-4/ 254), although he might be undersized for the 4-3 scheme. Yet, there have been talks the Cowboys could eventually move to a 3-4 scheme, which would fit his style perfectly. The best defensive end in the draft is someone the Cowboys might be playing against for years to come in Chase Young, the expected No. 2 overall pick of the Redskins. Iowa's A.J. Epenesa and Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos are two other edge rushers that could be on the Cowboys' radar, especially in a trade-back scenario.

Memorable Pick: The Cowboys landed a really good football player in 1998 – one that played for over a decade and eventually made a Pro Bowl. But it wasn't about the player they got – but the one they passed on. Drafting Greg Ellis with the No. 8 overall pick proved to be a good choice for the Cowboys. But they passed on greatness, as did several other teams that chose to focus on Randy Moss' off-the-field issues instead of his dynamic receiving abilities. Moss had a stellar career for the Vikings, Raiders, Patriots and 49ers, becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As for Ellis, he played mostly defensive end but did have a short stint as outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Ellis racked up 84 career sacks, including a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2007 when he was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year after missing half of the previous season with an Achilles injury.

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