The Dallas Cowboys are no longer vegetarian, given the amount of defensive beef they've ordered in free agency. The team lost Robert Quinn to the Chicago Bears and Maliek Collins to the Las Vegas Raiders in the first wave, but immediately rebounded by inking five-time All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a three-year deal worth $18 million. That inserts McCoy into the vacant 3-tech role (right of center) vacated by a less accomplished Collins, and the expected return of Randy Gregory looms to provide assistance opposite DeMarcus Lawrence, but what about nose tackle?
That issue has now also been solved, with the Cowboys initially agreeing to terms with Dontari Poe, a source confirming to CBS Sports, but the deal was pending a physical that's now been completed and passed. With that, Poe is officially on the books for the Cowboys, another move that shows the early influence of Mike McCarthy in Dallas.
Even if former starter Antwaun Woods -- who is an exclusive rights free agent -- is retained, Poe adds another (more) proven starter between Lawrence and McCoy, making for a defensive interior much upgraded over the porous unit that struggled in 2019.
Poe is a former first-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 who went on to land a second-team All-Pro nod and two Pro Bowl honors in his time there. After playing out his rookie contract -- which included the Chiefs exercising his fifth-year option -- he'd head to the Atlanta Falcons in 2017 free agency on a one-year, $8 million deal. He'd log 16 starts for the Falcons and deliver 39 combined tackles (four tackles for a loss), 2.5 sacks and a career-high 10 quarterback hits en route to landing a three-year, $27 million deal with the rival Carolina Panthers in 2018.
The latter opted to not pick up the final year of his option, making him a free agent, but also one whose signing does not impact the Cowboys' compensatory pick formula for 2021. He can also take snaps at right defensive end in random 3-4 sets, adding to his value for the Cowboys.
It's also a reunion for Poe and McCoy, who played alongside each other in Carolina.
Poe underwent surgery to repair a torn quad in 2019 that landed him on injured reserve, but was still able to register four sacks in only 11 starts -- second-most of his career -- and his durability has never been an overall question in eight seasons. He's played in 121 of a possible 128 regular season games and started in 118 of them, has 20.5 sacks, 278 combined tackles and 49 quarterback hits on his resume. The Cowboys also investigated other options like Damon "Snacks" Harrison, Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pennel in their search for an upgrade at nose tackle, but Poe's combination of youth and production for the right price was difficult to pass up.
Harrison himself confirmed the Cowboys never got around to calling him, presumably because things quickly escalated with Poe.
Poe will now squeeze between Lawrence and McCoy, and the Cowboys will dare opposing offenses to try and run the ball -- or pass it, for that matter. New defensive coordinator Mike Nolan plans to run a hybrid scheme in Dallas, and the talent he and McCarthy have brought in give him the ability to do just that.