FRISCO (KFDX/KJTL) — On a day when two key defensive players sign new contracts with the franchise, it will be the pass rusher who didn’t sign that haunts the Dallas Cowboys’ front office.
After initially reaching a verbal agreement on a 5-year, $70 million contract extension with $28 million guaranteed, defensive end Randy Gregory pivoted and will instead sign with the Denver Broncos, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported.
Werder said in a tweet that after the initial agreement with the Cowboys was made, Dallas attempted to alter some of the language in the contract, after which the Broncos, who offered a similar contract to Gregory, became the landing spot.
Heading into free agency, the Cowboys have put more of a focus on re-signing their own “home-grown” players in recent years.
So naturally, when their second-round pick from the 2015 draft was set to become a free agent, re-signing Gregory became high on the list of priorities.
For about an hour Tuesday morning, March 15, the Cowboys thought they had a done deal. They locked down their edge rushers, effectively paving the way for the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons to continue playing in a flex between pass rusher and coverage linebacker.
Now, Parsons’ role is a bit more uncertain, as is the status of a defensive line that was so dominant in 2021.
Gregory was a prized draft pick who many thought was a steal falling into the second round. However, a myriad of off-the-field issues involving the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy led to multiple suspensions for Gregory, including him missing the entire 2019 season.
The Cowboys stuck by Gregory during those tumultuous times, and he showed promise following both reinstatements.
However, the language reported to have been changed after the deal was reached included stipulations regarding behavior, apparently breaking trust between the two camps.
The Cowboys do have some cap space to make more deals happen, and plenty of free agents are still available. However, the loss of Gregory does leave yet another role that needs to be filled by Dallas in the offseason.
Players cannot officially sign new contracts until Wednesday, March 16.
Demarcus Lawrence restructures, Malik Hooker signs extension
After one season as the defensive coordinator in Dallas, Dan Quinn managed to turn a dismal defense into one of the league’s best and the top scoring defense in 2021.
Despite receiving head coach interview inquiries from at least six NFL teams, the reigning Assistant Coach of the Year elected to stay with the Cowboys and build off the progress made in his first year at the helm in the hopes of a Super Bowl ring.
In order to turn those hopes into a reality, the front office in Frisco was tasked with re-signing key pieces to the Cowboys’ defensive prowess in 2021.
In order for that to happen, the Cowboys needed cap space.
They received some of that space they needed with Saturday’s trade of wide receiver Amari Cooper to the Browns, who was set to count around $16 million toward the cap. But they still needed more.
Many believed one way to find more cap space was to release their star defensive end Demarcus Lawrence. Though the move wouldn’t be popular, Lawrence was set to count around $27 million against their salary cap.
However, Lawrence and is agent were adamant the pass rusher wanted to stay in Dallas.
In the end, both Lawrence and the Cowboys got what they wanted after restructuring Lawrence’s contract into a new three-year deal worth $30 million, fully guaranteed.
Not only did it make Lawrence the first pass rusher in NFL history to have the first seven years of his career on fully guaranteed contracts according to NFL Network reporter Tom Pelissero, it freed up an additional $13 million in cap space to sign more pieces to the Dallas defense.
And the front office wasted no time.
News broke early Tuesday morning, March 15, the Cowboys’ had agreed to terms with free safety Malik Hooker on a two-year, $8 million contract.
Hooker accounted for 42 tackles, two passes defended and one interception in 2021.