The Cowboys have addressed several needs prior to the draft already. The new deal for Prescott helped them to have a better sense of their future cap space and cleared the deck for them to be able to head strong into free agency. Although they did not make any of the major, splashy free agent signings, they were able to add depth and a strong veteran presence to their new look defense under the helm of Dan Quinn.
Their signings of Keanu Neal and Damontae Kazee, both of whom played for Quinn in Atlanta, mean that they don’t have to spend a top pick on adding to their linebacker corps or the safety position. They can use their draft capital on cornerback, defensive line, and offensive line.
However, what if just like at linebacker and safety, the Cowboys could sign a lower tier veteran to help them narrow their focus come April 29th?
One name that has suddenly become available is the freshly released, former Seattle Seahawk defensive tackle Jarran Reed. Reed, a second-round pick in 2016, has had an inconsistent career and has battled Injuries as of late. He peaked in 2018 when he broke the double-digit sack barrier, but an ankle injury derailed him in 2019 and an oblique injury may have attributed to his lackluster play last season, one in which his PFF score was a 56.3.Embed from Getty Images
Another contributing factor was the lack of talent playing alongside him on the line. Dunlap played well but was a mid-season addition. Seattle’s best pass rusher was their safety Jamaal Adams. Reed would be joining a defensive line in Dallas with Demarcus Lawrence, a legitimate Pro-Bowl pass rusher, and Randy Gregory who showed promise once he returned from suspension after week 8. Reed underwent surgery in January, but his release was not due to concern over the surgery but rather a cap casualty due to the Seahawks signing Carlos Dunlap and trading for Gabe Jackson.
Listed at 6-3 and 306 pounds, Jarran Reed could help to fill the gap in the middle of the Cowboys defensive line which has existed for several years now. He’s a well-rounded lineman who can also help to create interior pressure on the opposing quarterback. Lining him up alongside Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence could be the catalyst to help him return to 2018 form. Also, if the Cowboys select a defensive end in the draft like Carlos Basham Jr. (which we projected) who is big enough to slide inside occasionally, Quinn could rotate linemen and help to keep Reed fresh.
This past week the Cowboys notified Aldon Smith that they would not be looking to re-sign him. Smith, who had been absent from the game since 2015 due to numerous off the field instances, looked much better than expected. In the first half of the season, he was a very active contributor in both the run defense and pass rush. However, without Gregory for the first six weeks of the season the Cowboys had to rely heavily on Smith to do far too much. He finished with a PFF score of 66.3 and five sacks, 3 of which came in one game and none came after week 8. What should have been treated as a situational pass rusher turned into Aldon Smith being used for 73.01% of the total defensive snaps in 2020, only behind Jaylon Smith at 97.83% and Xavier Woods at 89.35%. He played 809 snaps all season and the Cowboys didn’t even reach the playoffs, no wonder why his production declined in the second half of the season.
If the Cowboys were to bring in Jarran Reed they would need to have better discipline and avoid putting him in the same situation as Aldon Smith. We have the Cowboys addressing their need at corner with their first-round pick, which means that they’re not bringing in the draft’s top talent along the defensive line. A second-round selection will still give Dallas the opportunity to bring in a contributor and possibly even a Day 1 starter, but someone that will have some growing pains. Having them as a part of a rotation could be extremely beneficial, but as seen with Aldon Smith’s snap count, the Cowboys don’t currently have the depth or the personnel to really execute that concept.
The addition of Jarran Reed could also give the Cowboys some needed flexibility come the draft. Whether their plan is to address the defensive line on Day 1 or Day 2 of the draft, adding Reed to the mix could allow them to draft best available if a top tier talent starts to fall. If the Cowboys are on the clock and Penei Sewell or maybe even Kyle Pitts are somehow still available, they may be keen to add one of those talents to their locker room. They’d still be able to address corner in the second round with the 44th pick. To draft one of those players when you have to add talent and depth to both the corner and the defensive line, your two biggest needs, is a tough thing to do. Jarran Reed mixed in with a rookie from the 3rd round would help to ease some of that concern.