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Cowboys Should Add FA Richard Sherman Post-Draft to Complete Defensive Rebuild

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2021

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) looks on during an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 41-33. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
Brandon Wade/Associated Press

Richard Sherman and the Dallas Cowboys feel like the perfect pairing. 

Jerry Jones loves razzle and dazzle with his Cowboys. And if there's anything he likes more than a big headline that attracts attention to America's Team, it's making moves that improve the Cowboys on the field.

Why not pull off a move that does both?

Even casual fans know the story of the Dallas defense. The unit was a disaster in 2020 under coordinator Mike Nolan, who reported to new coach Mike McCarthy. Things were historically bad en route to allowing 29.6 points and 158.8 rushing yards per game. They generated just 31 sacks, and formerly elite players like Jaylon Smith looked out of place. 

Scheme changes are never easy, but the results got Nolan fired after the season. Jones and Co. took a timid approach in free agency, though. They signed a hodgepodge of ho-hum deals, most of the one-year variety, with names like Damontae Kazee while re-upping with cornerback Jourdan Lewis. 

Dallas emphasized the draft to rebuild the unit, taking Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons 12th overall and using its first six picks and eight of 11 total on the defensive side of the ball. That included corners Kelvin Joseph (second round), Nahshon Wright (third round) and Israel Mukuamu (sixth round). 

There's plenty of room for a free-agent starter like Sherman, though—even if Wright told reporters he's "kind of a more athletic and agile Richard Sherman."

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But there's the rub—Wright isn't Richard Sherman. At least not yet. 

Most cornerbacks aren't. One of the best players of his generation keeps chugging on at age 33, posting a 67.7 Pro Football Focus grade last year over limited snaps. That injury-marred season shouldn't override the fact that in 2019 over 87 percent of his defense's snaps, Sherman allowed 27 catches on 51 targets with three interceptions, earning an 88.9 mark from PFF.

A healthy Sherman, even if he regresses slightly from those numbers, would be better than anything the Cowboys could roster next season. Last year in the new scheme, Trevon Diggs earned a 62.7 PFF grade, allowing 45 catches on 76 targets. The re-signed Lewis posted a 48.1 grade with 52 allowed on 77 looks.

Much of the rookie Wright's comments likely meant to emphasize how much he likes the fit in new coordinator Dan Quinn's scheme, which is fair.

It's a scheme Sherman knows intimately.

Quinn and Sherman worked together in Seattle's Legion of Boom years ago. Rekindling that relationship could provide immediate impact as the Cowboys try to right the defensive ship.

While one could argue that bringing on Sherman might impede the development of the young cornerbacks, does anyone sense Jones wants to bank on rookies to blossom quickly? The core he's paid so much to retain, headlined by quarterback Dak Prescott, isn't getting any younger.

Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

Adding Sherman would straddle the now-later tightrope. The instant impact would boost the unit, plus Dallas would be hard-pressed to find a better veteran mentor to model what Quinn wants the youngsters to learn as they adjust to the pro game.

Dallas has the cash to make it happen. Jones and Co. have $8.9 million in cap space but could free up more through extensions or make any new signing less restrictive on the cap through sheer creativity.

Sherman isn't in a position to demand a huge number anyway. Joining a potential contender, especially after the way Prescott started last year before his injury, beats the tar out of finishing out his career on a rebuilder.

It's a wonder this move hasn't happened yet given how the pieces align. Sherman would get to pursue another ring, and the Cowboys would add an instant upgrade who can ease the transition to future years, likely holding the championship window open longer.

And of course, the big summer splash would get eyeballs on the Cowboys before training camp.

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