Using Micah Parsons far more as an edge player than linebacker thus far this year, the Cowboys have formed a quality pass rush after the Randy Gregory negotiations broke down. Gregory is now a Broncos starter, teaming with Bradley Chubb as part of another team’s quality edge-rushing situation.
The Cowboys were prepared to keep Gregory on a five-year, $70MM deal — the exact terms he signed for in Denver — but an 11th-hour snafu related to guarantee forfeiture scuttled the agreement. This produced tension from both sides in the wake of Gregory going with the Broncos, but Jerry Jones said Friday the team’s depth benefited from the talks not producing a deal.
“I decided we were going too much on that guy; we could have three other guys better,” Jones said, when asked if he approached Dan Quinn about the state of the team’s pass rush amid the Gregory talks, during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan (audio link). “I didn’t have to go to anybody on that.”
A Cowboy from 2015-21 (amid a historically suspension-marred tenure), Gregory had agreed to stay but reversed course after he felt the Cowboys inserted language late in the process that could have voided his $28MM in guarantees even if he incurred a fine. The Cowboys have this provision included in most of their contracts. Jones now indicating he viewed the team’s offer as too high certainly proves interesting, given where Gregory’s deal ranks among edge defenders and how the Cowboys proceeded after losing him.
After Gregory committed to the Broncos during the legal tampering period, the Cowboys re-signed Dorance Armstrong on a two-year deal worth $12MM, took a flier on Dante Fowler (one year, $3MM) and drafted Sam Williams in the second round. This came after DeMarcus Lawrence, who refused to take a pay cut earlier in March, redid his deal. Lawrence, 30, is now tied to a three-year, $40MM pact ($30MM fully guaranteed).
The Broncos are now taking on the Gregory suspension risk, though the former second-round pick’s most recent ban came in 2019, and have him tied to an average salary ranking 22nd among edge rushers. The Cowboys have just one contract averaging north of $6MM across their defense — Lawrence’s — but the team stood down on adding another. Despite Von Miller offering to take a hometown discount, the Cowboys offered the Dallas-area native Gregory’s terms. That ended up placing third in the Miller sweepstakes, and the future Hall of Famer opted for a Bills proposal that included guarantees into Year 3.
Armstrong, who totaled just 2.5 career sacks from 2019-21, tallied five last season and already has three in three 2022 games. Torching Giants right tackle Evan Neal on Monday, Lawrence ripped off his first three-sack game since 2018. Fowler, who disappointed with the Falcons, has notched a sack and one quarterback hit thus far. Williams (34 defensive snaps) is playing behind this trio and Parsons. Gregory has sacks in back-to-back games and has forced two fumbles in three Broncos tilts.
It is too early to grade the Cowboys’ decision, but the team’s choice to pass on a Parsons-Lawrence-Gregory (or Parsons-Lawrence-Miller) pass rush is working out so far. But it will be interesting to see how Armstrong, Fowler and Williams fare over the course of Miller’s Buffalo career and Gregory’s Denver stay.