FRISCO, Texas – Without question Rod Marinelli wants to have quality pass-rushers, but he also likes to have quantity.
Kony Ealy agreed to a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday, bringing the total of pass-rushers on the roster to seven. And don’t be surprised if the Cowboys look for more help in the upcoming draft. They might even get some help if Randy Gregory is reinstated after missing last season because of a suspension.
The Cowboys’ interest in Ealy goes back to the 2014 draft. They considered him but ultimately traded up to take DeMarcus Lawrence with the second pick of the second round. When Ealy was cut by the New England Patriots last summer, the Cowboys put in a waiver claim to get him but were trumped by the New York Jets.
Ealy fits the mold of what Marinelli likes as a pass-rusher. He’s long (6-foot-4) with some bulk to his frame (275 pounds), but he moves well off the edge. He has not put it all together with just 15 career sacks and the fact he is on his fourth team in five seasons, but the Cowboys have had success with defensive line castoffs under Marinelli.
George Selvie signed with the Cowboys as a camp body and ended up with seven sacks in 2013. Jeremy Mincey led the Cowboys in sacks in 2014 with six. Jack Crawford turned two solid years with the Cowboys into a decent free-agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Datone Jones was out of football when the Cowboys signed him last November and he contributed a sack last year.
With Ealy on a one-year deal, it’s clearly a chance for him to prove to the Cowboys and other teams that he can be the player who had a dominant showing in Super Bowl 50 for the Carolina Panthers with three sacks and an interception.
But the Cowboys won’t be banking on that. They just want him to be part of the rotation with Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Taco Charlton and David Irving. Maybe this is the year Charles Tapper stays healthy. Maybe Gregory can get back on the field. Maybe the Cowboys add a defensive end in the draft who can contribute.
Lawrence, who had 14.5 sacks last year and made the Pro Bowl, is the war-daddy Jerry Jones has craved since DeMarcus Ware was cut in 2013. The Cowboys have him on the franchise tag ($17.143 million) this season but hope to work out a multi-year agreement by mid July. Crawford is a dependable and versatile player up front. Irving, who was given the second-round tender as a restricted free agent, had seven sacks in eight games last season. Charlton, the Cowboys’ top pick in 2017, played much better in the final five weeks of the season than he did early. Jones, a former first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, can play inside and outside.
Jerry Jones is still intrigued by Gregory’s pass-rushing skills even though he has played in just two of the last 32 regular-season games because of suspension. Tapper has shown skills in offseason work but injuries have kept him off the field for all but two games in his first two years.
And then there is Ealy, who had one sack for the Jets last season. He played left and right defensive end. Knowing how Marinelli works, he might get a crack at playing some on the interior in pass-rushing situations as well.
For Marinelli, pass-rushing is a numbers game. He will take all the numbers he can get, and Ealy is the next project.