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Offseason | 2021

Roster Reset: Have They Done Enough At DT?


The free-agent signing period is not over by any means, but it certainly has gotten quieter both with the Cowboys and around the league. The focus is shifting now to the NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 29-May 1.

While it's still possible to see more moves between now and the draft, the bulk of the player movement has already passed.

With that being said, let's take a quick look at each position on the roster and see where things stand heading into the draft later this month.

Today, we're taking a look at the current situation with the defensive tackles.

What Changed: Some new faces, but the same thought process.

With last year's free agents mostly moved on, the Cowboys again invested in some veteran help at defensive tackle – but they did so on a budget.

Early on in the free agent process, they signed a pair of veteran run stuffers in Carlos Watkins and Brent Urban. Watkins is coming up the road from Houston, where he was a fourth-round pick in 2017 and mainly played defensive end in the Texans' 3-4 scheme. Urban was also a fourth-round pick for Baltimore all the way back in 2014, but he caught on and saw some success as a defensive tackle for Chicago the past two years.

Urban's deal is just one year for a manageable $1.75 million, but he offers some intriguing potential against the run. According to Pro Football Focus, the veteran graded out as the third-best interior lineman against the run last season. That can only help a defense that finished dead-last in the league against the run last year.

What's Here: One of the first things the front office did in free agency was extend a tender to restricted free agent Antwaun Woods, which seems like a smart move for a low cost.

Everyone knows Woods' story by now. Originally undrafted in 2016, he struggled to stick with the Tennessee Titans before turning heads at the Cowboys' training camp in 2016. Initially considered a long shot to make the roster, he wound up becoming the Cowboys' best nose tackle. In the time since, he's started 32 games for the Cowboys and figures to compete for the starting job again.

Woods joins the two young draft picks from the past two years, Trysten Hill and Neville Gallimore, to make up the bulk of the defensive tackle depth.

Continuing the injury-plagued theme of 2020, Hill was showing promise in his second season before being lost for the year with a torn ACL. Gallimore needed time to adjust to the NFL, as he hardly contributed in the first six weeks of the season. The rookie came on strong, however, as he managed to finish with 28 tackles and four tackles for loss – the vast majority of that coming after Halloween.

Those three, combined with Urban and Watkins, comprise the vast majority of the depth chart. Throw in Justin Hamilton and Walter Palmore, and that's where things currently sit.

What's Next: This is all very typical Cowboy free agency maneuvering.

With the new additions locked in, the Cowboys have five veterans with NFL experience who can man the middle of their line. They don't need to force the issue at defensive tackle, simply because they need to.

But let's also be realistic: this isn't a depth chart that should prevent them from drafting another young defensive tackle if the opportunity arises.

The question is simply when that opportunity might present itself. There isn't really a defensive tackle prospect that makes sense at No. 10 overall. It'd be fairly surprising to see them go that direction in the first round.They do have three Day 2 picks, however – No. 44, No. 75 and No. 99. Washington's Levi Onwuzurike, N.C. State's Alim McNeil, Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams and LSU's Tyler Shelvin are all guys that could fit somewhere into the puzzle.

If the value lines up, maybe they'll make it three drafts in a row of picking a defensive tackle on Friday night. Or if that doesn't work out, perhaps they'll use one of their six Day 3 picks to bolster the depth behind their starters.

It's one of the positions the front office has done the most work on this spring – but there's still plenty more they might try.

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