FRISCO, Texas – A popular offseason question posed by Cowboys observers:
What happens if Byron Jones leaves via free agency? Would the cornerback position immediately rocket atop the club's offseason to-do list?
The same could be said about fellow free-agent-to-be Robert Quinn.
What happens if the Cowboys lose a team-best 11.5 sacks off last year's roster? Where would edge rusher rank among free agency/draft needs then?
The Cowboys prefer that hypothetical doesn't become reality.
"I'm real proud to have had the time that we've had together, number one," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "Number two, he really helped us last year. And so I'm hopeful that we can do something to keep him."
The Cowboys don't often make trades outside of draft weekend. Quinn was only their seventh non-draft trade in the last five years. But the deal with Miami last April – Quinn for a sixth-rounder in 2020 – turned out to be a steal.
Despite missing the first two games because of NFL suspension, Quinn led the Cowboys in sacks (11.5) and pressures (38) in his first season with the team, working opposite DeMarcus Lawrence at right defensive end.
Quinn turns 30 in March. This might be his last best chance to maximize his earning potential with a multi-year deal.
"It's really my first time going through this," the nine-year veteran said after the Cowboys' 2019 season finale in January. "So I don't know, it's going to be interesting. Obviously I don't know what's going to happen. I love the guys here. I love everything. But you know the business, how it works. So I guess in a few weeks, whenever things get hot again, we'll figure it out."
The Cowboys' depth behind Quinn lacks experience. Recent draft picks Dorance Armstrong, Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks have played a combined 20 games. Veterans Kerry Hyder and Michael Bennett are set to be free agents. The team still holds Randy Gregory's rights, but the 27-year-old pass rusher remains indefinitely suspended since February 2019 and can't have contact with the team, per league rules.
Re-signing Quinn would ensure the Cowboys maintain two pass rushing cornerstones for new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"He (Quinn) is one of the top people, players and people, that I've been associated with," Jones said. "He's the real deal."