Gardner was a team captain for Stanford last season and displayed a great ability to find the ball-carrier even in traffic. He knows how to move his way through bodies on his way to making a tackle. These abilities helped him become a first-team All-Pac 12 selection.
At Gardner's pro day, via NFLDraftScout.com, he ran a 5.03 40-yard dash time which wasn't fantastic. What he lacks in speed, though, Gardner does make up for a bit with his 6'4", 262-pound frame. That's not a bad size at all for someone at his position.
The Cowboys had the league's worst defense by the end of the 2013 season. Bringing in any help for that side of the ball is a smart move, especially on the line.
Since last year began, Dallas has lost starters Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware for one reason or another. While Gardner isn't going to come in and replace the production level of any of those guys, he certainly helps from a depth prospective.
The team was able to re-sign Anthony Spencer this offseason, which gives Gardner a former Pro Bowler to learn from. That being said, Spencer's back on just a one-year deal and could leave for a more lucrative contract next offseason.
George Selvie contributed in a big way when Spencer went down with a season-ending injury in Week 1. He posted a career-high seven sacks in his first year as a Cowboy.
While Selvie was a huge contributor to Dallas' defense a season ago, the veteran could continue to improve or never have another season like that again. One good year does not make a player's career.
Again, Gardner likely wasn't taken to become the next Ware. What he can become, however, is a reliable backup. If Selvie and Spencer were to leave or get injured, Dallas can at least rest easy knowing it has depth at defensive end. There's also a chance the coaching staff could move Gardner to defensive tackle given Dallas' 4-3 scheme.
Gardner will now join Tyrone Crawford, Jeremy Mincey, Kyle Wilber and others as situational players and backups at the position. While not a huge threat to any of the aforementioned three from a depth chart prospective, Gardner rounds out a fine list of insurance options.
Expect to see the former Cardinal player on special teams during the 2014 season as well. The Cowboys have quickly built a stout unit and have to be excited about seeing a solid tackler like Gardner join that crew.
While he's not going to come in and provide Dallas with 13 sacks a season, Gardner gives his new team a few options to consider in case injuries occur.