The Cowboys showed interest in retaining Carlos Watkins, but the veteran defensive lineman will instead trek to the desert. Watkins agreed to terms on a one-year Cardinals deal Thursday night, according to the team.
Watkins spent the past two seasons in Dallas, working as a regular starter. Having played inside and on the edge during his six pro seasons, the Clemson alum will join a Cardinals team that lost its top two defensive linemen — J.J. Watt and Zach Allen — this year.
Residing as a starter and rotational presence in a 4-3 scheme with the Cowboys, Watkins will transition to Jonathan Gannon‘s revamped Cardinals defense. The Cards have also added L.J. Collier, who disappointed during his Seahawks rookie contract, to their defensive line mix. But replacing Watt and Allen will be no small task. Watkins, 29, will be part of the group asked to do it.
Watkins signed two Cowboys contracts — one-year deals in 2021 and ’22 — and earned barely league-minimum dough on each. Still, the former Texans fourth-round pick started 18 games with the Cowboys. He totaled five tackles for loss and recovered a fumble in 2021 with Dallas, helping the team return to the playoffs.
Last season, the Cowboys used Watkins at a slightly reduced rate on defense (35%) compared to 2021, when he played 438 defensive snaps and earned a 43% snap rate. Pro Football Focus slotted Watkins just inside the top 80 among D-tackles last season. While Dallas was interested in bringing Watkins back, the team re-signed Johnathan Hankins on Wednesday and still has a host of rookie-contract defensive tackles rostered.
Part of Clemson’s national championship-winning 2016 team, Watkins recorded 10.5 sacks as a senior with the ACC power. He has never come close to approaching that total as a pro, registering five in six seasons. But he will have a chance to compete for a rotational role in Arizona, which still has needs on its defensive front after Watt’s retirement and Allen’s decision to follow Vance Joseph to Denver.
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