3 free agents Cowboys need to call after DeMarcus Lawrence injury

With DeMarcus Lawrence out for 6-8 weeks healing his foot injury, here are two suitable replacements the Dallas Cowboys can pick up in free agency right now. 

While Dak Prescott is finally healthy enough to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a playoff berth, another fan favorite has fallen due to injury. NFL All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence is sidelined for an estimated 6-8 weeks with a foot injury.

It’s possible that the Cowboys could upgrade Hard Knocks star Azur Kamara to replace Lawrence for the time being — after all, they kept the rookie on to add depth at the position — but a veteran defensive end could be a safer bet in leading the Cowboys to more wins than losses this season.

Here are three potential free agents who could fill in for Lawrence for the next two months.

Olivier Vernon

A Pro Bowler with the New York Giants in 2018, the 30-year-old former Cleveland Browns defensive end is still floating in free agency after a season-ending Achilles injury suffered in Week 17. At the time, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said he was disappointed because Vernon was “playing at a high level“, adding that the team would “miss his leadership.”

The injury hurt Vernon’s chances at resigning, especially since he was essentially a highly-paid backup behind Myles Garrett.

But while Garrett was out, Vernon “ended up being one of the team’s most impactful defenders” on the Browns defense in 2020. He also finished the season with a 74.6 grade from PFF, which ranked 21st in the NFL among defensive ends.

Vernon was a costly commodity last season, but if the Cowboys can work out a quick and lucrative deal that allows him to get back in the saddle, Vernon could leverage his performance for a bigger contract elsewhere next season. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Trent Murphy

Another 30-year-old veteran free agent, Trent Murphy is entering his eighth NFL season as someone who can hold the line in light of Lawrence’s sudden injury.

Murphy didn’t exactly have a standout season last year — he caused zero turnovers — but he did have two sacks, 19 total tackles and six quarterback hits.

Compared with Lawrence’s 6.5 sacks and 58 total tackles last season, Murphy’s play leaves much to be desired, but his six quarterback pressures aren’t far behind Lawrence’s ten.

At this point in free agency, there’s certainly a reason these players remain unsigned: but Murphy could still serve as a veritable placeholder with Lawrence out for now.

 

Aldon Smith

The only player on this list to have been signed to a team in August 2021, Aldon Smith was cut from the Seattle Seahawks because he “violated the Seahawks trust in unspecified ways“, according to Corbin Smith of Sports Illustrated.

The Seahawks didn’t cut Smith due to his arraignment on a battery charge booked in Louisiana this April, but it’s a red flag that is keeping Smith in free agency until it’s all settled.

If it were any other team, this would be a pass, but the only reason the Cowboys could consider signing him on temporarily is because Smith revitalized his career in Dallas in 2020. Last year, Smith logged two fumble recoveries (one of which resulted in a touchdown), 48 total tackles and 14 quarterback hits. Much like the Seahawks, the Cowboys moved on due to undisclosed “issues“.

The irony here would be that if Smith was signed as Lawrence’s replacement, he would be flipping the situation the two experienced back in 2014 when Lawrence was considered a replacement for Smith on the 49ers.

If Smith is unavailable due to legal issues, the Cowboys could consider Adrian Clayborn instead.