IRVING, Texas – A third Pro Bowl player has now departed Valley Ranch in as many days, as defensive tackle Jason Hatcher signed with the Washington Redskins on Thursday afternoon.
Hatcher, who was the NFL's sack leader among defensive tackles with 11 last season, signed a four-year deal worth roughly $27 million with the Redskins – the Cowboys' oldest rival.
The news ends days of speculation about the veteran's future, as Hatcher made several visits around the NFL to potential suitors. Hatcher visited with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders earlier in the week, and he reportedly had visits with the Redskins and the Tennessee Titans lined up.
"My hard work paid off. I just left a great organization and now I'm with a great organization," Hatcher said. "Things change. I just have to take it all in stride."
Hatcher said he didn't close the door on returning to the Cowboys, but said it was clear to him he wouldn't be returning.
"Once me and my agent met and they didn't show no signs they wanted me back," Hatcher told 105.3 The Fan Thursday afternoon. "So I know the fans are upset, they should be. But I made the right decision for me. If we could've made it work out, we could've, but I'm in a great place with the Redskins, a great organization."
Hatcher was a third round pick by the Cowboys in the 2006 NFL Draft, going No. 92 overall out of Grambling State. He played in at least 13 games in every year of his career, from 2006 to 2013. He didn't start his first game until 2010, and he didn't become a regular starter until 2011.
In 2012 and 2013, Hatcher became a full-time starter for the Cowboys, starting in 31 of a possible 32 games. He featured primarily as a 3-4 defensive end in the final year of Rob Ryan's tenure as defensive coordinator. Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli made Hatcher the three-technique defensive tackle in their 4-3 scheme upon arriving in Dallas last spring.
It's safe to say Hatcher flourished in that role. Prior to 2013, [embedded_ad] Hatcher had 16 career sacks with his career highs being 4.5 in 2011 and 4.0 in 2012. He nearly tripled that during the 2013 campaign, earning his first-ever Pro Bowl selection in the process. He posted two-sack performances in three different divisional games – Oct. 13 against Washington, Nov. 24 against New York and Dec. 29 against Philadelphia.
Hatcher said during the season he planned to test the market when the NFL's free agency window opened in March. He played the final years of his Cowboys career on a three-year $6 million contract he signed following the 2011 NFL lockout.
"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," Hatcher said in December. "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."
That clearly won't be the case going forward, as the Cowboys have now parted ways with their all-time sack leader in DeMarcus Ware and their 2013 sack leader in Hatcher. New free agent acquisition Jeremy Mincey is now the team's sack leader with 20 career sacks. George Selvie is behind him with 10 career sacks, seven of those coming last season.