Is the Dallas Cowboys' Solution for an Inside Linebacker Closer Than They Think?

Matt CullenAnalyst IFebruary 21, 2009

The Dallas Cowboys' defense had an up-and-down year in 2008 to say the least. The unit undeniably loaded with talent had its critics coming in.

The players were in place to make a potentially elite defense—Chris Canty at DE, DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis as OLBs, who combined for 26.5 sacks in 2007, Bradie James and recently acquired veteran Zach Thomas in between them.

Throw in the three Pro Bowlers in the secondary—though the Roy L. Williams selection remains laughable—and it's easy to see why expectations were high.

Again though, many people remained skeptical. Anybody who follows the Cowboys knows that Williams was exposed a couple years prior in pass coverage and was at this point not much more than just a name. There was questions about how much help he could get from LBs in pass coverage as well.

The much scrutinized defense quietly finished eighth in the league overall, led the league in sacks, and despite two plays at the end of the Ravens and Eagles games, DID play better after Wade Phillips took over the play calling in Week Eight.

There were cringe-inducing moments as well. The two instances I mentioned: getting shredded by Donovan McNabb in Week Two, Clinton Portis in Week Four, Steven Jackson in Week Seven, and the combination of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward in Week Nine.

There are a couple of concerns heading into the offseason—most notable are the status of DE Chris Canty and and a concern at linebacker.

Zach Thomas and Kevin Burnett are both free agents and are not expected to be back. I have heard a lot of big ideas floating around as possible fits in the Cowboys front seven.

Julius Peppers wanting out of Carolina mentioned the Dallas Cowboys as one of four teams that he would accept a trade to. Even if he is affordable, he would have to be converted from DE to OLB across from DeMarcus Ware.

Even if he makes a smooth transition, Dallas doesn't need his 14.5 sacks—they already led the league in that category last year.

Ray Lewis has been considered, who at the right price would be fantastic. Baltimore, however knows his worth more than anybody, so expect them to make a strong push to bring him back.

Brian Urlacher's name has been floated around as part of a trade for Terrell Owens in a not-as-serious rumor.

There is one scenario that I have not really heard mentioned. One that is much cheaper and is in the Cowboys' locker room already.

Williams—remember that guy that struggled in pass protection? Many feel that he is on the way out but the Cowboys insist that they are keeping him. Williams already stated that he would be fine with the Dallas Cowboys switching him to LB. He is known mostly for his big hits and horse collar tackle but he is also more effective stopping the run.

Nothing is guaranteed with the move, he still needs to help out in passing situations obviously, and is also a little undersized at only 221 pounds.

Williams certainly has the athletic ability though, can put fear into opposing players with jarring hits, is willing to make the move, and can save the Dallas Cowboys money this offseason.

So is the move to ILB next to Bradie James something that should at least be considered?