Anthony Hitchens

Chiefs Tried To Trade For Hitchens In 2017

The Chiefs signed former Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens to a five-year contract this offseason, but Kansas City had made attempts to acquire Hitchens previously. According to Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs actually tried to trade for Hitchens during the summer of 2017.

The Cowboys declined to deal Hitchens — originally a fourth-round pick in the 2014 draft — and he went on to play on 500 or more defensive snaps for the fourth consecutive season. In total, 2017 marked one of the best campaigns of Hitchens’ career, as he appeared in 12 games (all starts) and posted 55 tackles, two passes defensed, and one forced fumble, all while grading as the NFL’s No. 18 linebacker, per Pro Football Focus.

“We’re sitting there on the free-agency board, and the guy that we made our first call to back in August about his availability, he’s a free agent,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told Worthy. “We knew we were going to go in a different direction with Derrick [Johnson]. It just made sense. We spent a lot of time on him with the work we did back in August. Here we’ve come full circle now. Now, we’re right back where we originally started, which is pursuing Anthony Hitchens.”

Hitchens, 26, ultimately landed a five-year, $45MM deal with the Chiefs that makes him the league’s seventh-highest paid inside linebacker on an annual basis. That pact also contains $21.29MM in fully guaranteed money, second to only Luke Kuechly among inside ‘backers. During the upcoming campaign, Hitchens will collect a base salary of $790K and count for $3.6MM against Kansas City’s salary cap before his cap charge nearly triples in 2019.

With the Chiefs, Hitchens will start next to Reggie Ragland — whom Kansas City acquired from the Bills last year — in defensive coordinator Bob Sutton‘s 3-4 scheme. Johnson, whom the Chiefs opted not to re-sign after he spent 13 seasons with the club, was regularly playing more than 800 defensive snaps per year, so Hitchens will need to increase his playtime percentage as he transitions to a new team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chiefs Add LB Anthony Hitchens

The Chiefs have reloaded their linebacker corps, agreeing to a deal with former Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter). Hitchens’ deal will span five years for a total of $45MM, per Pelissero (on Twitter), including a $14MM signing bonus and $21.29MM guaranteed at signing. His contract will be worth up to $49.25MM, with incentives included.

Hitchens will help the Chiefs fill the void on defense after cutting ties with longtime middle linebacker Derrick Johnson and pass-rusher Tamba Hali earlier in the offseason. Hitchens said last month that he was seeking $10MM a year on the open market. He’s slated to work alongside Reggie Ragland at middle linebacker for the Chiefs, with Kevin Pierre-Louis set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason. The Chiefs also have Terrance Smith, Ukeme Eligwe and Ramik Wilson on the roster at middle linebacker.

A reunion with the Cowboys seemed unlikely as they ranked No. 28 in the NFL entering Monday with $3.12MM in available cap space. They had placed the franchise tag on linebacker Demarcus Lawrence and have reportedly made extending the fellow linebacker to a long-term deal a priority.

The signing of Hitchens was the second major addition Tuesday for the Chiefs as they also reportedly agreed to a deal with free-agent wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Hitchens started 12 games for the Cowboys last season and recorded 55 tackles, which were the most since his rookie season in 2014. The Colts were also reportedly interested in Hitchens, as new Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus had previously worked as the linebackers coach for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys originally selected Hitchens in the fourth round of the 2014 draft out of Iowa. He had not missed a game leading up to this season, in which he missed four due to a tibia plateau fracture sustained in August.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Top 2018 Free Agents By Position: Defense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. After looking at offense on Monday, we’ll tackle defense and special teams today.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each defensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.

Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by defensive position for 2018:

Edge defender:

  1. Julius Peppers
  2. William Hayes
  3. Trent Murphy
  4. Pernell McPhee
  5. Aaron Lynch
  6. Alex Okafor
  7. Adrian Clayborn
  8. Kony Ealy
  9. Connor Barwin
  10. Jeremiah Attaochu
  11. Junior Galette
  12. Derrick Shelby
  13. Barkevious Mingo
  14. Kareem Martin
  15. Erik Walden

As a positional group, pass rushers comprise interesting market on the defensive side of the ball. It’s not often that a list of best available players is topped by a 38-year-old, but Peppers is the top free agent edge defender after the Cowboys and Lions deployed the franchise tag on Demarcus Lawrence and Ezekiel Ansah, respectively. As with quarterbacks, NFL clubs are extremely reluctant to allow pass rushers to hit the open market, so top-tier options are rarely ever truly “available.” Peppers, for his part, hasn’t even declared whether he’ll return in 2018, but indications are that he’ll suit up for a 17th campaign after posting 11 sacks last year.

Alongside Peppers, other veterans populate the edge market, and while William Hayes may not be a household name, he’ll be a contributor for whichever team signs him. A stout run defender, Hayes is also capable of generating pressure despite managing only one sack in 2017. The Dolphins used Hayes on only 271 defensive snaps a season ago, and have since replaced him by acquiring fellow defensive end Robert Quinn from the Rams. Now that he’s entering his age-33 season, Hayes should come cheap, but will almost assuredly outplay his contract.

Nearly every other available pass rusher has some sort of flaw which will likely limit his market next week. Trent Murphy is only 27 years old and put up nine sacks in 2016, but he missed the entirety of the 2017 campaign with injury. Pernell McPhee, Alex Okafor, Junior Galette, and Derrick Shelby have also been plagued by health questions in recent seasons. And Adrian Clayborn famously registered the majority of his 2017 sacks (and 20% of his career sack total) in one game against overwhelmed Cowboys backup Chaz Green.

The two names that I keep coming back to are Aaron Lynch (49ers) and Jeremiah Attaochu (Chargers). Yes, Lynch has been suspended for substance abuse, struggled with his weight, and was reportedly in danger of being waived prior to last season. He’s also extremely young (he won’t turn 25 years old until Thursday) and ranked fifth in the league with 34 pass pressures as recently as 2015. Attaochu, a 25-year-old former second-round pick, also has youth on his side, and while he hasn’t quite flashed as much as Lynch, he’s also been buried on LA’s depth chart for much of his career.

Interior defensive line:

  1. Sheldon Richardson
  2. Dontari Poe
  3. Muhammad Wilkerson
  4. Star Lotulelei
  5. DaQuan Jones
  6. Beau Allen
  7. Denico Autry
  8. Justin Ellis
  9. Tom Johnson
  10. Bennie Logan
  11. Chris Baker
  12. Kyle Williams
  13. Dominique Easley
  14. Haloti Ngata
  15. Jay Bromley

Interior rushers are getting more respect in today’s NFL, but that still hasn’t translated to them being paid on the level of edge defenders — the 2018 franchise tag for defensive tackles, for example, is roughly $3MM cheaper than the tender for edge rushers. While the 2018 crop of interior defenders boasts some impressive top-end talent, none of the available players figure to earn a double-digit annual salary. Sheldon Richardson may have the best chance to do so, but Seattle determined he wasn’t worth a one-year cost of $13.939MM, so is any other club going to pay him $10MM per year? I’d guess he comes in closer to $9MM annually, which would still place him among the 25 highest-paid defensive tackles.

Dontari Poe will be an intriguing free agent case after setting for a one-year deal last offseason, but the most interesting battle among defensive tackles will take place Star Lotulelei and Muhammad Wilkerson, and I’m curious to see which player earns more on the open market. Both are former first-round picks, and it’s difficult to argue Wilkerson hasn’t been the more productive player — or, at least, reached higher highs — than Lotulelei. Wilkerson also won’t affect his next team’s compensatory pick formula given that he was released, but his off-field issues, which include a reported lack of effort and problems with coaches, could limit his appeal.

While Beau Allen and Denico Autry are potentially candidates to be overpaid based on their youth, there are bargains to be had at defensive tackle. Tom Johnson is 33 but he’s offered consistent pressure from the interior for years — his last contract was for three years and $7MM, so he shouldn’t cost much this time around. Haloti Ngata was injured in 2017 but plans to continue his career, and he can still stop the run. And Dominique Easley was outstanding as a 3-4 end in 2016 before missing last season with a torn ACL, meaning the former first-round pick could be a value play for any number of teams.Read more

Free Agent Rumors: Landry, Hitchens, Bills

The Dolphins are attempting to trade wide receiver Jarvis Landry after assigning him the franchise tag last week, but the club probably shouldn’t expect a first-round pick for their slot receiver, as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald writes. Instead, fair compensation is likely to be a third-round pick, a low second-rounder, or perhaps a player, multiple sources tell Salguero. Landry can be an effective weapon, but any team that acquires him is either committing to carrying his $16MM+ salary in 2018, or inking him to a new deal, so Miami isn’t likely to get blown away in terms of trade offers. The Dolphins were expected to meet with Landry’s representatives at the combine on Wednesday, so a resolution could be coming soon.

Here’s more on 2018 free agency:

  • Cowboys free agent linebacker Anthony Hitchens is seeking $10MM per year on the open market, according to Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com. Dallas ranks in the bottom-third of the league in available cap space, so that price point could force Hitchens out of the club’s range. Indeed, multiple beat writers don’t believe Hitchens will re-sign with the Cowboys, while the Colts — who now employ former Dallas linebackers coach Matt Eberflus — are expected to pursue the 25-year-old. A fourth-round pick out of Iowa in 2014, Hitchens appeared in 12 games a season ago and registered 55 tackles.
  • Although the Bills inked veteran defensive back Vontae Davis to a one-year deal earlier this week, they’re not giving up hope of re-signing free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines, general manager Brandon Beane told reporters, including Joe Buscaglia of WKBW (Twitter link). Buffalo acquired Gaines in 2017 as part of the return for wideout Sammy Watkins, and the 26-year-old went on to start 11 games, ranking 11th in the league in yards per pass. He’s expected to garner at least $6MM annually on the open market.
  • While new Lions head coach Matt Patricia has a clear working relationship with free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler, Detroit is more likely to fill its secondary needs internally, said general manager Bob Quinn (link via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com). Given that they may need to replace both Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden (and find a new slot corner with Quandre Diggs moving to safety), the Lions will likely give opportunities to 2017 rookies Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew. “We drafted those guys for a reason last year, and when we evaluated them in the postseason process, we liked what they did and their role,” said Quinn.
  • Veteran quarterback Mark Sanchez didn’t attempt a single pass for the Bears last season, but Chicago could nonetheless be open to a reunion. “You know, he did a good job this year,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com. “All the things we value with him: his veteran leadership and his experiences. Again he’s a free agent; those are all evaluations that are ongoing.” Chicago doesn’t have a backup for Mitch Trubisky on its current roster after announcing its intent to release Mike Glennon earlier today.
  • If linebacker Derrick Johnson doesn’t land a new deal on the open market, he has a standing to return to the Chiefs as a coach, head coach Andy Reid told reporters, including Terez A. Paylor of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link). The Chiefs recently announced that they won’t re-sign the 35-year-old, but Johnson still wants to continue his career. Johnson is highly respected for his locker room presence, so it’s no surprise Reid would want the veteran defender on staff if his playing career is over.

Cowboys Not Expected To Re-Sign Anthony Hitchens?

The Cowboys have a number of objectives this offseason, but they will certainly prioritize signing Zack Martin and Demarcus Lawrence to long-term deals. Lawrence will get hit with the franchise tag at some point prior to the March 6 deadline, which will give the two sides until July 16 to work out a multi-year contract. Martin, meanwhile, is still under club control through the 2018 season, but Dallas has been talking about extending him for some time now.

Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)

Anthony Hitchens, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks, is not the same caliber of player as Lawrence and Martin. However, he is a quality linebacker who will surely generate plenty of interest on the open market, and neither David Moore of the Dallas Morning News nor Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram believe the Cowboys will be able to retain him.

Both scribes point to recent comments from executive VP Stephen Jones to suggest that Hitchens will not be in Dallas next season. Jones said of Hitchens, “I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s one of those guys who is available. You can count on him. He understands this game is a tough game. He put himself in harm’s way out there when a lot of players wouldn’t do it. He’s the type of guy you want on your football team … At the same time, we all know he’s not the ‘quote, unquote’ Pro Bowl football player. He’s not the guy who’s getting all the accolades but he’s the type of guy you want on your football team so it does make it hard.”

Hill believes that, if Hitchens wants to stay in Dallas, he will have to take a team-friendly deal and turn down more money elsewhere. After all, the Cowboys have just $19MM in cap room at the moment, while other potentially interested teams — like the Colts — are considerably more flush.

Former Dallas LBs coach Matt Eberflus was recently named the Colts’ new defensive coordinator, and Hill believes a Colts-Hitchens union makes perfect sense. Indeed, Indianapolis will be moving from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 under Eberflus, and Hitchens would help the team make that transition.

Assuming Hitchens does leave, Hill says Dallas will need to prioritize the linebacker position in the draft, but as the 2018 draft class is rife with quality LB prospects, the Cowboys should be able to adequately replace Hitchens’ production.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts Expected To Pursue Anthony Hitchens

After the hiring of former Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus as the team’s new defensive coordinator, the Colts are expected to make a play for Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens once free agency opens, Ed Werder speculates (Twitter link). Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)

Werder goes on to say Eberflus values him as a high-quality player who can help others learn the system. Though Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has made re-signing Hitchens one of the team’s top priorities in free agency, the team isn’t expected to have much cap room to work with assuming it works out a deal or places the franchise tag on defensive end Demarcus Lawrence.

Though it is just speculation, the move makes plenty of sense and Werder is among the most well-connected reporters working around the Cowboys. No one should be better at setting Hitchens’ value than the Colts new defensive coordinator, who coached the linebacker since he entered the league in 2014.

Hitchens has started 48 of his 60 career games, with the majority coming at middle linebacker. He is versatile, however, and is capable of playing just about anywhere in Eberflus’ 4-3 scheme. Despite missing four games in 2017, Hitchens made 84 tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Eagles, Haden, Cowboys

Despite earlier reports to the contrary, an Eagles source tells Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) that the team was not in on Joe Haden. The Eagles, the source claims, are content with their young cornerbacks.

It’s quite possible that the Eagles were interested in Haden but were not among the finalists for him, making this all a matter of semantics. In any case, the Eagles were unwilling to approach, match, or exceed the $7MM guarantee that Haden secured in his new three-year deal with the Steelers.

The Eagles will be starting a pair of 23-year-old corners in Jalen Mills and the newly-acquired Ronald Darby. Behind them, they have only one player outside of his 20s in veteran Patrick Robinson. Eventually, rookie Sidney Jones could join the active roster and provide help, but that doesn’t help to boost the group’s experience level.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Tests show that Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who suffered a tibial plateau fracture recently, suffered no ligament damage, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. That means that no surgery will be needed and that, in theory, could help to speed up recovery. In a press release, the Cowboys indicated that Hitchens likely will not go on IR. The latest projections have Hitchens missing total eight weeks of action.
  • Doctors say that Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith only suffered ACL and MCL damage and did not injure any other major ligaments in his knee, Rapoport tweets. Meredith is done for the year, but he could be back in time for next year’s OTAs.
  • Now that the Packers have added Ahmad Brooks to the fold, they can be more patient with rookie Vince Biegel‘s recovery, Ryan Wood of the Press-Gazette tweets. A source tells Wood that he’ll “probably” start the season on the PUP list, meaning that he won’t count against the initial 53-man limit.
  • Former Saints defensive end Royce LaFrance signed with the CFL’s Roughriders, Nick Underhill of The Advocate tweets.

Cowboys LB Anthony Hitchens Out 8 Weeks

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens suffered a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee in last night’s preseason game against the Raiders and will be sidelined for eight weeks, according to Todd Archer of ESPN.comAnthony Hitchens (Vertical)

While a two-month absence is certainly not ideal, it’s far better news than a torn ACL, which is what Dallas initially feared Hitchens had suffered. Now, Hitchens could be placed on injured reserve but be designated to return later this season.

Losing Hitchens for the season would’ve constituted a large blow for a Dallas defense that can’t afford to take a step back after ranking 18th in DVOA a year ago. Hitchens, 25, started all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2016, and played the second-most defensive snaps (581) of any Cowboys linebacker. In that time, Hitchens posted 78 tackles and 1.5 sacks while grading as the NFL’s No. 49 linebacker among 86 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.

Dallas has several options to cover for the loss of Hitchens at middle linebacker, and one course of action could be Sean Lee moving to the middle, as Todd Archer of ESPN.com writes. Veteran Justin Durant is also capable of playing middle linebacker, while second-year defender Jaylon Smith had been set to serve as Hitchens’ direct backup. Smith, still recovering from a gruesome 2016 knee injury, won’t be inserted into the starting lineup, as Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones explained to Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

How The Cowboys Could Replace Rolando McClain

For the second consecutive season, Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain will serve a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse. In 2015, Dallas only had to survive without McClain for a quarter of the season, but given that McClain is facing a 10-game ban for 2016, the Cowboys will need to more seriously consider how they’re going to make up for the loss of their middle linebacker.

We’ve examined how Dallas might go about finding a replacement for McClain, looking at players already on the Cowboys’ roster, free agents sitting on the open market, and veterans who could be on the roster bubble with their respective clubs. Let’s dive in…

Internal options:

The primary name being floated to replace McClain in the middle is third-year linebacker Anthony Hitchens, whom the Cowboys selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft. Thing is, Hitchens was already a starter — he played on the inside in Anthony Hitchens (Vertical)McClain’s absence last year, and then moved to the outside, ultimately seeing action on about half of Dallas’ defensive snaps. So if Hitchens is being counted on to man the middle full-time, including in sub packages, the Cowboys would need to find a replacement at strong-side linebacker, meaning Kyle Wilber and/or Andrew Gachkar could see meaningful snaps after spending most of their respective careers as special teams players.

[RELATED: Updated Dallas Cowboys depth chart]

Gachkar, meanwhile, is another option to fill in at middle linebacker, and he has experience at the position. If chosen, Gachkar would likely be a two-down player, as Pro Football Focus’ grades have shown him to be effective against the run but a liability in pass coverage. The 27-year-old has never been a major defensive contributor — he was forced to step into the starting lineup when the Chargers suffered a variety of injuries at the linebacker position in 2014, but even then, he only played on 36.5% of San Diego’s defensive snaps.

The “wild card” in this race is second-year player Mark Nzeocha, according to Bryan Broaddus of the Cowboys’ website. A seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, Nzeocha only appeared in two games during his rookie season, managing 14 snaps, all of which came on special teams. Extremely athletic, Nzeocha was all over the field at Wyoming, playing safety and all three linebacker positions. His learning curve might be steep, but he clearly has all the physical tools to play the position.

A source tells PFR that the Cowboys are, for the most part, satisfied with the current state of their linebacker room, and are looking forward to have their young players compete for playing time while McClain is suspended. Dallas, says the source, hasn’t shown a lot of interest in scouring the free agent market for substitutes, so one of Hitchens, Gachkar, or Nzeocha might be the favorite to earn significant snaps this fall.

Free agents:

Donald Butler — After selecting Denzel Perryman in 2015 and Joshua Perry in this year’s draft, the Chargers parted ways with Butler, who had spent the past five seasons with the club. At age-27, Butler is the youngest free agent option on this list, but he’s coming off the worst season of his career, having posted just 40 tackles during the 2016 campaign. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune accused Butler of “losing interest” after receiving a massive extension prior to the 2014 season, so perhaps some other clubs have made that same assessment.Justin Durant (vertical)

Justin Durant — Durant started 12 games for the Falcons last year, but prior to his time in Atlanta he spent two seasons with the Cowboys, so at the very least he’d offer some familiarity with Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli‘s playbook. Versatility is another point in Durant’s favor, as he played mostly inside linebacker with Atlanta and Detroit, roamed the middle during his Jacksonville tenure, and moved between both positions with the Cowboys.

A.J. Hawk — The Bengals signed Hawk to a two-year deal before the 2015 campaign, but despite injuries limiting fellow linebacker Vontaze Burfict to just 10 games, Hawk rarely saw the field, playing on roughly a quarter of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps. Hawk recently told Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer that although he’s aware a club might not express interest until late in camp (or perhaps after the season begins), he’s staying in shape in the hopes of receiving a phone call.

David Hawthorne — Like Durant, Hawthorne offers positional versatility, having seen action at both inside and outside linebacker. In 2015, Hawthorne was shifted to the weak side in favor of rookie Stephone Anthony, but was then benched, declared inactive, and ultimately released after an unproductive season. Still, he’s got 83 career starts under his belt, and would presumably feel comfortable in the middle of the Dallas defense.

Keep reading for more external options that could be on the Cowboys’ radar…

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