There are a lot of prize catches to be made in the 2016 NFL free agency season, and many will officially be gone by the time the new league year starts on Wednesday. The Dallas Cowboys are looking to make some moves after a 2015 season that everyone would rather forget about. Some big changes need to be made to defense, especially at defensive end, and that is why the Cowboys have an interest in Olivier Vernon, Chris Long, and Cedric Thornton.
A few defensive options are already being explored by the Cowboys, but the defensive end is where they are truly hurting.
One piece of good news came on Wednesday morning, but it’s not just for the Cowboys. The Miami Dolphins have taken the transition tag off of defensive end/linebacker Olivier Vernon and that officially places him in the free agent pool, but he will cost a team a lot of money.
Dolphins have pulled the transition tag on LB/DE on Olivier Vernon, per source. Now a free agent. Will command big dollars.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 9, 2016
The transition tag placed on Vernon, one of the best pass rushers in the league, was worth $12.734 million. Having it on him allowed the Dolphins seven days to match any offer given to Vernon by other teams. Now, he’s out there for all to sign.
In three seasons, Vernon has racked up 25.5 sacks and 29 over his four-year career, but he’s only getting better.
Instead of spending money on FA RBs, shouldn’t Cowboys break all their piggy banks for this, their biggest need? https://t.co/1rQYXpNkkC
— Kevin Sherrington (@KSherringtonDMN) March 9, 2016
The running backs being spoken of in this tweet are Lamar Miller and Bilal Powell, who have both generated interest from the Cowboys and a number of other teams. Keeping Darren McFadden as their first running back and using the money on Olivier Vernon would be a worthy investment.
If the Cowboys miss out on Vernon or his price ends up being too high, there is another option in former Los Angeles Rams defensive end Chris Long. He just finished up a visit with the Washington Redskins, but he left there without a contract.
ESPN is reporting that a visit with the Dallas Cowboys has already been set up with Chris Long and will happen likely this week.
Long is aging — he’s set to turn 31-years-old in March — and he did have just four sacks in his last 18 games, but the talent is there. One thing the Cowboys may want to be cautious of is that Long missed four games last season and 10 in 2014 due to various injuries (knee/ankle).
In his first six NFL seasons, Chris Long did not miss one game and has 41.5 sacks. When he’s healthy, he is a great player, and if he can be had at the right price, the Cowboys will sign him.
Bleeding Green is reporting that the Dallas Cowboys also have an interest in Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Cedric Thornton. They aren’t the only team, though.
— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) March 9, 2016
Thornton is 27-years-old and coming off of a season where his numbers did regress quite a bit. In 2015, he had 33 total tackles and one sack. That’s a pretty big change from 51 tackles in 2014 and 60 in 2013, but he’s a big body and could help shore up the Cowboys’ defensive line.
He’d also likely come with a cheaper price tag than Vernon and Long.
The Dallas Cowboys are poised to be big players in the 2016 NFL free agency season, but that’s if there is any truth to all the rumors. Defensive end is a key need that must be addressed now and Olivier Vernon, Chris Long, and/or Cedric Thornton are all great starts to meeting that need.
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]