With less than two weeks remaining before the NFL draft, free agency has become a back-burner plateau recently. Teams are always looking to improve their roster but most clubs are now content to roll into the amateur-talent acquisition phase and then circle back around on the veteran market once they see what they could get under the rookie salary cap and locked in for four years.
In addition, most veterans still on the market will figure into the compensatory formula for the 2022 additional picks, so teams with projected amounts of picks are extra weary of cancelling those out. A big exception, players who are released don’t count in the formula. Over the last 24 hours, two players have had their contracts cancelled and they just happen to play a position the Cowboys could be looking to upgrade. Defensive tackles Maurice Hurst and Sheldon Richardson are free to sign with any NFL club.
Richardson, 30. has been associated with the Cowboys previously. as his original team (New York Jets) tried to trade him to Dallas at the 2016 draft deadline. Instead, Richardson played the season out before being traded to the Seattle Seahawks on his fifth-year option season. He notched just one sack in 15 games for Seattle, but did turn in an overall solid performance. Across the board.
While he never again reached the pass-rush heights of his early days with the Jets when he totaled 18 sacks in 47 games played across his first three seasons, he did pick it back up over his one season in Minnesota and the last two years with the Browns.
A former first-round pick, a three-technique when in a 4-3 alignment as opposed to a 5-tech with the Jets 30 front, has 12 sacks over the last three years while missing only one game. At 6-foot-3, 294 pounds, he could be a rotational fit for a position that does not have much history of producing. The veteran leadership is missing, third-year Trysten Hill is coming off an ACL and hasn’t proven much. For now, Dallas may be relying on a big Year 2 jump from 2020 third-round pick Neville Gallimore. With Hill able to play some nose tackle (Gallimore too), Richardson may be ideal for the Cowboys if the price is right.
Hurst was not released but waived. Because he was still under his rookie contract, all 32 NFL teams had the opportunity to place a claim on picking up his remaining contract. That 24-hour window has now closed and he is a street free agent.
At 25, Hurst’s best football may still be ahead of him. He has eight career sacks and 17 QB hits across 40 contests after being a fifth-round selection out of Michigan. He dropped to the fifth-round due to a congenital heart defect that was discovered during the NFL scouting combine that season.
He dealt with a positive COVID-19 result last season and missed another four games due to injury.
His pass-rushing skills are there, though he’s been a bit of a liability against the run, something the Cowboys are struggling to correct on their own.
Still, he should be someone of interest to Dallas. His price, which will obviously come in at less than the $2.1 million he was set to earn as the final year of his rookie contract, should not be prohibitive in any way, especially since it won’t impact the comp formula.
Richardson could still command a substantial salary perhaps, with many more skins on the wall. He was set to make $12 million in the final year of a three-year, $37 million agreement. Most associate his release as a direct result of the club agreeing to terms with Jadeveon Clowney for big money earlier in the week.
Perhaps in a depressed market, this close to the draft, Richardson could come cheaper than expected. The Cowboys currently have around $7.5 million of space remaining before signing free agents and with considerations of room needed to operate during the season.