Dallas Cowboys beef up interior with addition of Dontari Poe

  • dallas cowboys
  • Dontari Poe
  • nfl free agency
By Nate Sanchez March 25, 2020 0 Comment
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Two-time Pro Bowler Dontari Poe has agreed to basic terms with the Cowboys, as Dallas hopes the 346-pounder will improve the interior defense.

The Dallas Cowboys made free agent news again with the signing of 6-3, 346-pound defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Mike McCarthy made it clear he wanted to add size to the interior, and now Dallas has added another big body to the middle of its defense.

Gerald McCoy is not the only former Carolina Panther defensive lineman headed to Dallas anymore after the Cowboys acquired Dontari Poe. Poe adds size to the defensive interior that has long been lacking. The previous Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli regime preferred leaner and longer defensive tackles with pass-rush ability (i.e., David Irving, Terrell McClain), and not the run-stuffing type that Poe is. This signing is yet another sign of the influence of Mike McCarthy and Mike Nolan.

It was rumored on Monday that Dallas and Poe were closing in on a deal, and a full deal is still yet to be agreed upon. But it was reported that a basic deal was struck and other language was still being worked on. It is all but a certainty that he will be a Dallas Cowboy in the 2020 season.

What does Dontari Poe bring to Dallas?

The Cowboys’ starting interior was some combination of Antwaun Woods, Maliek Collins, Christian Covington, and Tyrone Crawford before his season-ending hip injury. The additions of McCoy and Poe signify a definite improvement on the interior defense after Collins departed for Las Vegas, and Woods remains an exclusive right, free agent.

Woods is expected back given his status as an ERFA. If Dallas extends him on a league-minimum one-year qualifying offer, he has no rights to negotiate with other teams. He and Poe would combine to a big-bodied duo to rotate at the one-technique nose tackle position.

Poe isn’t the Pro Bowler he once was, but he had a decent output in 2019. His season was cut short due to a torn quad. In 11 games, he had four sacks, six quarterback hits, and 22 tackles, seven of which were for a loss. Pro Football Focus rated him the 32nd interior defender in the league, and it was his third straight season with a run grade of 70 or higher. His overall grade was a 71.2 in 402 snaps.

There is a slight injury concern as he is coming off a torn quad that cut his season short. Outside of 2019, he’s been durable only missing two games. That shouldn’t be a huge problem unless the problem lingers.

Poe had his ups and downs in 2019. His best strength is, well, how strong he is. He can eat up blockers and keep the linebackers clean, which was a big problem for the Cowboys last season. He even has decent pass-rush ability and figures to add more pass rush ability than Woods has or a player like potential target Damon Harrison would have. His technique can falter and cause problems for him at times. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula can work with him to clean up his technique.

Here is a short film thread from John Owning of what Poe brings to the table:

Where does this leave the Cowboys, and what is left for the defensive front in 2020?

The Panthers declined Poe’s player option, so signing him does not affect Dallas’ comp pick formula. The terms of the deal are not announced yet. It’s safe to assume it will be relatively cheap, low-risk, and presumably on a one-year deal. He will join the Cowboys as a rotation piece on the inside and build on a productive 2019 season.

The defensive tackle group looks considerably better with Poe, McCoy, Trysten Hill, and Woods if Dallas decides to bring him back. Tyrone Crawford also has some ability to kick inside as well.

The Cowboys could still stand to improve at the defensive end position with some uncertainty surrounding the return of Randy Gregory, and Dallas has been connected to Everson Griffen and Jadeveon Clowney (with a more particular interest in Griffen). With about $21M in cap space still available, Dallas has more than enough room to work with. It’s expected that Dallas will inject some young talent to the defensive front through the draft as well.

Dontari Poe isn’t the 2013 and 2014 Pro Bowler he once was. He will still improve the defensive front as Dallas continues to build the interior of the defense. Overall, I like the deal for the Cowboys as a one-year solution to the one-technique position.

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