There have been consistent themes to the Cowboys' free agent additions on defense since March: versatility, proven production, and in some cases, a connection to the new coaching staff.
Veteran pass rusher Everson Griffen checks all of those boxes.
The Cowboys agreed to terms with Griffen, a former four-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings, on a one-year deal Wednesday night. He'll go through the league-required COVID-19 testing protocols before he officially joins the team for training camp, a process that takes four to five days, head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Griffen is the fifth defensive newcomer with a Pro Bowl on his career resume, joining safety HaHa Clinton-Dix and fellow defensive linemen Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe and Aldon Smith. With cornerback Daryl Worley also aboard, the Cowboys have added six defenders with extensive NFL starting experience.
Friday was the Cowboys' first organized practice in 2020. In an offseason that has been completely virtual until this month, it's an added benefit for new players to have built-in familiarity with the coaching staff.
Griffen played for Cowboys new senior defensive assistant George Edwards for six seasons (2014-19) when Edwards was the Vikings' defensive coordinator. Aldon Smith was among the league's most dynamic pass rushers from 2011-14 when Cowboys new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula held the same assistant title in San Francisco. Clinton-Dix was a Pro Bowler for Cowboys new head coach Mike McCarthy in Green Bay.
McCarthy values versatility on both sides of the ball, and new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan has implemented both a 4-3 and 3-4 schemes at multiple stops. Though McCarthy classifies
Dallas as a core 4-3 defense, he has also prioritized tailoring systems to fit players' strengths.
Griffen, primarily a right defensive end in Minnesota, was also effective moving inside on passing downs at times. McCoy has played defensive tackle and end in his 10-year NFL career. Smith can play as a stand-up outside linebacker or defensive end with his hand on the ground.
With that said, the Cowboys have given themselves so many options with their front seven:
The defensive line rotation could feature Griffen and Smith on the right side opposite DeMarcus Lawrence.
Returning from 2019 hip surgery, Tyrone Crawford could play any position on the line, whether it's rotating at both defensive end spots or teaming with McCoy and the 346-pound Poe inside.
Young defensive ends such as Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson, Jalen Jelks and fifth-round pick Bradlee Anae will compete for snaps.
The possibilities are many, and the depth and size up front should help linebackers Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Sean Lee roam and chase plays.
Finally, the Cowboys are starting to see how the revamped front seven and secondary fits on the field. Griffen will only make them better.