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Role Call: Tarell Basham's Big Opportunity


(Editor's Note: With the offseason program in the rearview mirror, it's time to look ahead. As part of the preparation for training camp, this series will introduce 25 key players who are new to the Cowboys' roster, rookies and veterans alike. The series continues today with defensive end Tarell Basham.)

How He Got Here: It's interesting the way things tend to come back around in the NFL.

Tarell Basham's name might have sounded familiar when he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract back in March. That's because Basham was one of many big-name pass rushing targets for this front office back during the 2017 draft cycle.

If you'll recall, the Cowboys were desperate for another edge rusher to pair with DeMarcus Lawrence back during that draft process. The class was littered with noteworthy defensive ends, highlighted by Myles Garrett but also including Solomon Thomas, Derek Barnett, Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton and others.

Ultimately, the Cowboys made Charlton the 28th overall pick in the draft – one of their bigger draft missteps in recent years. But Basham was also a consideration, as he was one of several edge rushers to be invited on a visit to the team facility.

Basham wound up being drafted 80th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, and it's fair to say his stint there didn't go as originally planned. He played just 16 games and was released in October of 2018, not even halfway through his second NFL season.

He immediately caught on with the New York Jets, where he enjoyed some success playing as a 3-4 rush linebacker. Basham was a regular member of the Jets' rotation over the last two years, tallying 69 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks during the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

That success, combined with the front office's familiarity with him from just a few years ago, made it entirely unsurprising when Basham signed one as one of the primary free agency additions of the 2021 offseason.

What's Next: There should be plenty of opportunity in Dallas for Basham – both in 2021 and maybe beyond.

Looking over the depth chart, it seems like a given that DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory will be the primary pass rushers on this roster. Beyond that, though, it's fair to say Basham is the most accomplished player in the group behind them. The only other veteran in that group is Dorance Armstrong, with three career starts and 2.5 career sacks. The trio of Ron'Dell Carter, Bradlee Anae and Chauncey Golston has little-to-no NFL experience.

It's also interesting to think that Basham signed a two-year contract, whereas the Cowboys tend to sign their free agents to one-year deals. Gregory is entering a contract year, and it's realistic that he could play his way out of the Cowboys' price range. Signing Basham for multiple seasons could be viewed as a cost-effective way for the Cowboys to cover themselves in the bigger picture.

Bet You Didn't Know: Wins have been hard to come by to this point in Basham's career. The Colts went just 5-15 during his time with Indianapolis, and he was eventually claimed by a Jets team that has been one of the NFL's worst during recent seasons. In 42 games played for New York, Basham experienced a 10-42 record. That's probably why, when speaking with reporters during the Cowboys' offseason program, Basham wasn't shy in expressing his excitement to play for a team that's expected to contend for a playoff spot.

Quotable: "Just knowing that the exposure and the ability that they have on this team, the explosiveness that they have on offense. I feel like it's been a while since I played with a really explosive offense to complement a really good defense. This just seemed like the best opportunity to come and be successful. I feel like I've done enough losing in my past." – Tarell Basham

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