FRISCO, Texas – It appears that one of the Cowboys' longest-tenured veterans has called it a career.
It has long been suspected that the veteran pass rusher was mulling retirement, but Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy confirmed the news on Thursday afternoon.
"Tyrone, he came to me right away in the exit interview process … he is going to retire," McCarthy said.
The news brings an end to another lengthy Cowboys career, as Crawford was drafted by the organization in 2012. He spent his entire career with the Cowboys and appeared in 117 career games.
It's been a spring of departures, as fellow longtime veterans L.P. Ladouceur and Chris Jones have moved on from the club in recent weeks. With Crawford retiring and Sean Lee still weighing his options, Tyron Smith is now the Cowboys' longest-tenured player under contract.
It's been a winding career for Crawford in more ways than one. Originally from Windsor, Ontario, he started his college football career at Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, Calif., becoming a junior college All-American and eventually enrolling at Boise State.
From there, Crawford raised his stock to become a Day 2 draft pick, being selected 81st overall by the Cowboys in the 2012 NFL Draft. Crawford and former cornerback Orlando Scandrick were the first of what would become a bit of a pipeline of Boise State prospects to the Cowboys, as they were soon followed by the likes of DeMarcus Lawrence, Kellen Moore, Leighton Vander Esch, Cedrick Wilson and Darian Thompson.
The winding road didn't stop there, though, as Crawford's own versatility gave him plenty of stops along the Cowboys' defensive line.
The Cowboys' front office initially drafted Crawford to play defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but the defense had shifted to a 4-3 under Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli by his second season. To add another wrinkle to the story, Crawford didn't even get to play that second season, as he tore his Achilles during the first full practice of training camp in 2013.
Initially a backup behind Henry Melton in 2014, Crawford got a look at the all-important under tackle position and eventually wound up starting 15 games for that year's 12-4 division champions.
Crawford's production at defensive tackle was intriguing, especially for such a young player. He finished that 2014 season with 33 tackles, three sacks, 14 quarterback hits and another 29 pressures, establishing himself as a promising young pass rusher.
Of course, that promise led to the defining moment of Crawford's career. At the outset of the 2015 season, the organization signed him to a five-year, $45 million contract extension, banking that his continued development would make him a smart signing in the long run.
Crawford wound up playing to the end of that extension, but it never quite panned out. He played the majority of the 2015 season with a torn rotator cuff and still managed 35 tackles and five sacks, but he never quite developed into the pass rushing under tackle. During the 2016 season, the emergence of Maliek Collins and Terrell McClain prompted the coaching staff to kick Crawford back outside to defensive end. He did enjoy success from the right end position, setting a career high with 5.5 sacks in 2018. Still, he finished his career with just 25 sacks – 22 of which came after he signed his extension.
To be fair, playing through injury was another defining characteristic of Crawford's Cowboy career.
In addition to Achilles injury and the torn rotator cuff, Crawford battled through various other problems. On the second snap of a 2018 win against Tampa Bay, he was carted off the field with an apparent neck injury. The other obvious injury were the hip problems that plagued him throughout the last few years.
Crawford dealt with injuries to both of his hips from the beginning of the 2018 season. He played through them that year and rehabbed his way during the 2019 offseason. Those problems caught up to him after just four games in 2019, though, and he was ultimately sent to injured reserve after just four games.
Despite the pandemic-shortened offseason in 2020, Crawford rehabbed his way back into good health and was available for the start of the season. But even by his own admission, the mileage started to take a toll.
"Obviously Year Nine, I have gone through injuries and they don't just go away," he said last October. "They feel better than when it happened. But they don't feel great."
Crawford did manage to play 40% of the defensive snaps last season, finishing with 14 tackles and two sacks. For his career, he finished with 194 tackles and 33 tackles for loss, to go along with his 25 sacks. That, in addition to being a two-time defensive captain and an outspoken leader on the defensive side of the ball.
Don't expect Crawford to stray too far away during his retirement, to hear it from McCarthy.
"He's going to be here in the area. He lives right down the road, and I've actually seen him a couple times since," he said.
It's a good bet the Cowboys will be seeing plenty of Crawford away from the field. On the field, they'd be wise to find a replacement who can match his versatility and leadership ability.