FRISCO, Texas – In a perfect world, the Cowboys will enter the 2022 season knowing exactly the two or three players counted on to rush the passer.
That would mean Randy Gregory has re-signed with the Cowboys, and they figured out how to pay him and DeMarcus Lawrence. And then of course, those two guys will rush from the edge and star linebacker Micah Parsons is also used to harass the quarterback from all over the field.
Again, that's a best-case scenario for the Cowboys.
But the reality of the situation is the Cowboys at least need to brace themselves for the possibility of losing either Gregory to free agency or being without Lawrence because of the cap.
So what does that mean to the position? Some might argue – with good reason – to use Parsons as either a full-time pass rusher or at least let him rush off the edge more than he did last year.
Parsons put up incredible numbers – getting 13.0 sacks despite only rushing the passer about a third of the time. According to the website Pro Football Focus, Parsons rushed the passer 255 snaps, just 35 percent of his overall defensive plays.
If he can break DeMarcus Ware's rookie record (eight sacks, 2005) and get close to breaking the NFL rookie mark (Jevon Kearse, 14.5 sacks) as just a part-time rusher, what could Parsons do as a full-time rusher.
Perhaps, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has the answer to that, and it might have to be a necessity if either Lawrence or Gregory are not on the roster.
But let's not forget, Quinn has always seemed to find players that can rush the passer even without a hefty price tag or name recognition.
When Quinn was the DC in Seattle, helping the Seahawks get to two straight Super Bowls, players such as Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald all registered at least five sacks in a season.
So who can fill the void for the Cowboys if needed?
For one, it could be a good that is also an unrestricted free agent. But if the Cowboys lose either Gregory or Lawrence, a player like Dorance Armstrong could be a viable candidate to return.
Now, he might not be that cheap either, considering he is coming off a career season with five sacks after getting just 2.5 in his previous three years. Armstrong was limited in his play time, but took advantage of the opportunities when Gregory and/or Lawrence missed time.
To add to his value, Armstrong is also a strong special teams player, evident by his blocked punt that led to a touchdown in a game against Atlanta.
Armstrong is someone who might factor into the equation, but the Cowboys should be able to count on Tarell Basham, who tied for his career-best in sacks with 3.5. Basham also had that number in 2020 in his final year with the Jets.
Another player to remember is Chauncey Golston, who had a productive year despite missing most of the offseason and training camp due to injuries.
Golston spent time as a rusher but also played defensive tackle. He'll have that swiss-army-knife element to his game, but if needed, he could also rush off the edge.
The Cowboys will never turn their attention away from viable pass-rushers in the draft.
While it doesn't seem like a huge need at the moment, that would obviously change if one or two, or even three, of their veteran ends are not on the roster next year.