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Deal or No Deal: Determining which of their own 7 defensive free agents the Cowboys should re-sign

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By: Dan Rogers

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys need to figure out which of their own defensive free agents they want to retain.

The Dallas Cowboys will need to decide which of their own free agents they want to bring back and sign to new deals. Last week, we examined the offense and predicted who would stay and who would go. This week, we are doing it a little differently as we look at the defense. After projecting their open market price, we will play a little game of Deal or No Deal and guess which players could return to the Cowboys’ defense in 2024.


The veteran corner has been a star in this league for some time now with five Pro Bowls and a Defensive Player of the Year (2019) on his résumé. After some stellar seasons in New England, he found himself on some less-than-impressive defenses with Carolina and then Indianapolis before coming to Dallas last year.

Trading for Gilmore was one of the smartest moves the Cowboys made last offseason. Despite being 33 years old last year, he still showed he’s capable of being “that guy” as he oftentimes shadowed the opposing team’s wide receiver week in and week out after the defense lost Trevon Diggs for the year. His smart play and sound fundamentals allowed him to be effective in the Cowboy’s secondary.

Contract prediction: One year, $9 million

Deal or no deal? No deal.

Why he’s likely to walk: Money. Who wouldn’t want Gilmore to return as he’s a proven commodity, but the Cowboys have a pair of young corners so allocating extra funds to the cornerback position might not be the direction they go.


A very underrated piece to the defense, Armstrong can give you something as both a pass rusher and run stopper. He has 16 sacks over the last two seasons despite playing less than 50% of the defensive snap. He’s also a valuable member of special teams as he’s blocked multiple kicks over his career.

Armstrong is a good player, but he hasn’t turned the corner into becoming one of those fierce edge rushers the Cowboys were hoping for when they celebrated his draft selection back in 2018. He’s a good player to have for a team that needs some edge-rushing depth, but the Cowboys aren’t one of them. Some extra cash in an expanded role is likely in his future.

Contract prediction: Two years, $14 million

Deal or no deal? No deal.

Why he’s likely to walk: Armstrong is likely to receive a decent offer from a team that is willing to give him an expanded role on defense.


Similar to Armstrong, Fowler can oftentimes be taken for granted as he quietly provides depth to this Cowboys ensemble of pass rushers. But unlike Armstrong, Fowler is strictly a pin-your-ears-back and pursue player only seeing playing time in pass-rushing situations. Fowler has been effective and has recorded 10 total sacks during his two seasons with Dallas.

Fowler signed a cheap one-year deal in each of the last two seasons to play for his former coach in Atlanta, Dan Quinn, but Quinn is gone now. At 29, he still has juice left in the tank, and would probably prefer to see more action (20% of defensive snaps, ranks 10th out of all Cowboys defensive linemen), but he’s stuck behind Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Sam Williams.

Contract prediction: One year, $3.5 million

Deal or no deal? No deal.

Why he’s likely to walk: Money and opportunity. Don’t be surprised if the Commanders give him a slight pay raise and he rejoins Quinn in Washington.


When the Cowboys signed him to a one-year, $1.12 million deal in 2021, nobody thought much of it. But then, out of nowhere the young safety reserve started more games for Dallas than he did in his previous five years combined. And he didn’t just start, he played well. Kearse picked off two passes, forced a fumble, and got his first-ever solo sack. He even led the Cowboys in tackles that year. Not too shabby.

Kearse’s strong season earned him another deal, this time for two years and worth $10 million. Sadly, his performance has slowly dwindled and at times last year, he was a borderline liability. The Cowboys paid a good chunk of change for Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson last offseason so they’re committed to a couple of their veteran safeties, but the ride is likely over for Kearse in Dallas.

Contract prediction: Two years, $6 million

Deal or no deal? No deal.

Why he’s likely to walk: He’s just not the same player and the Cowboys already have a slew of these strong safety types on the roster including another position change from Markquese Bell on the horizon.

In this week’s episode of The Star Seminar, Rabblerousr and I take a look at each of these players and play DEAL or NO DEAL as we predict which of these defensive players are likely to stick around in Dallas.
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The undersized veteran corner has had somewhat of a rollercoaster career as he has been good at times, and a liability at others. Out of need, the Cowboys tried him outside early in his career and that did not go well. Since, then he’s found a home as a reliable slot corner who plays with a lot of competitiveness and toughness.

The Cowboys re-upped on him once already signing him to a three-year, $13.5 million deal in 2021. While he’s looked very ordinary at times, Lewis is coming off a good year this past season after recovering from a foot injury midway through the 2022 season. He looked sharp at different times last season and has shown that he can still be an asset in the secondary.

Contract prediction: Two years, $5.6 million

Deal or no deal? DEAL.

Why the Cowboys should keep him: He should provide the Cowboys with some solid corner depth at an affordable price. He’s a tough and savvy player who could flourish in Zimmer’s defense.


Hankins has been a reliable nose tackle in the NFL over his 12-year career. Whether it was with the Giants or the Raiders, he shows up in the middle and makes plays.

He came to the Cowboys midway through the 2022 season to help improve their run defense. He was effective and the team brought him back for another year on a cheap deal. Hankins continues to provide pushback against the run and even came away with three sacks last season, more than he’s had in his previous five seasons combined.

Contract prediction: One year, $1.5 million

Deal or no deal? DEAL.

Why the Cowboys should keep him: Mike Zimmer wants big bodies for his defensive line. Well, he’s already got one. Hankins may not be the answer they’re looking for, but for that price, he’d be a valuable depth piece.


There was a time when things looked promising for the defensive tackle out of Oklahoma. He started nine games in his rookie season where he finished the season with four QB hits and four tackles for a loss, both career highs to this day. But things haven’t gone so well since as he was injured his sophomore season and has only made one start over the last two seasons despite playing in all but one game.

Last season, some thought he might not make the team, but he did, and he actually played fairly decent working himself into the rotation despite the team being deep along the defensive line. He hasn’t taken the steps we’d hoped he’d take when the Cowboys drafted him in the third round back in 2020, but he proved that he might not be done just yet.

Contract prediction: One year, $1.2 million

Deal or no deal? No deal.

Why he’s likely to walk: Gallimore’s deal won’t cost much, but he’ll likely choose a team that will give him more opportunities and better job security than what he’d get with Dallas.

Originally posted on Blogging The Boys