IRVING, Texas – It's common knowledge at this point that the Cowboys need help rushing the quarterback, and they certainly seemed to get it Wednesday.
Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones witnessed first-hand in 2014 what a top-notch quarterback can do for a franchise. With the signing of Pro Bowl defensive end Greg Hardy to a one-year contract, Jones said he thinks he's added someone who can have a Tony Romo-like impact on defense.
"These players that can put pressure on the quarterback are rare," Jones said Wednesday afternoon. "They're as rare as franchise quarterbacks. From what we've seen of his play, he's in that category."
That'll certainly be the hope for a Dallas defense that tallied just 28 sacks last season. Hardy has been one of the league's top pass rushers in recent seasons, as he has compiled a whopping 27 sacks in his past 32 games.
"Well, the biggest need, in my view, that we have this coming year, 2015, is to get some pressure on defense. Greg directly addresses that," Jones said.
Of course, there's no denying the inevitable: the addition of Hardy is going to bring more than just added pressure to the Cowboys' pass rush. The fifth-year veteran was charged with assault against his then-girlfriend last summer and spent 15 games on the commissioner's exempt list last season.
Even after signing with the Cowboys, it's likely the league will levy some kind of discipline on Hardy – in the form of either a four or six-game suspension. That helps explain the particulars of the contract, which doesn't include any guaranteed money and lists incentives for games played and sacks accrued.
Hardy can net up to $13 million this season, but his base salary sits at just $745,000.
"We structured it so that our risks were as minimal as we could expect and get us a pressure player," Jones said.
All of this is bound to bring some scrutiny on the Cowboys, as domestic violence issues have marred the league's image in the past year, largely due to incidents surrounding Hardy and former Ravens running back Ray Rice.
The decision was something Jones said he weighed carefully.
"We have spent a great deal of time over the last two days in meeting with Greg directly and gaining a solid understanding of what he is all about as a person and as a football player," he said. "A thorough background review of him, involving many elements of our organization, has been ongoing for the last few weeks."
The addition of Hardy brings a Pro Bowler into Valley Ranch just six days after the Cowboys lost one in the form of DeMarco Murray. Up until this point, the loss of Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles was the dominant storyline of the Cowboys' offseason.
Asked about that decision, Jones noted that the Cowboys wouldn't have been able to upgrade their defense without some hard choices on the offensive side of the ball.
"We couldn't have made this deal had we not shown some prudence and been managing our cap. You just can't have it all," Jones said.
He added: "We think we had a better chance to make up for what we were missing in DeMarco than we did finding somebody that could put the pressure on, on defense the way that Greg can. So that's made the decision."
It might have taken a week, but that decision seems to have given the Cowboys the difference-making defender fans have been calling for.