3 Available NFL Free Agents Who Can Still Help Cowboys

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2021

3 Available NFL Free Agents Who Can Still Help Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys revealed a bit more about themselves in their overtime win over the New England Patriots in Week 6. 

    The win moved them to 5-1 with five wins in a row and a firm grasp on the NFC East lead. It also showed that while the defense has a long way to go before it can be trusted, the offense is going to be good enough to keep them in every game. 

    Even when the defense was giving up 5.6 yards per carry to Damien Harris and Mac Jones was enjoying an efficient night through the air, Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb and the rest of the offense were able to one-up the Patriots in overtime and score the walk-off touchdown. 

    It's also another encouraging sign that this team is going to have what it takes to compete in the playoffs.

    Thus, looking to make some small moves that could turn out to be difference-makers is worth taking a look at. As the Cowboys prepare for the middle of the season, there are a few options on the free-agent market who could crack the rotation. 

    Let's take a look at three.

CB Brian Poole

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    Jourdan Lewis was just named a captain for the matchup against the New England Patriots, but that doesn't mean he's having a great season on the field. 

    The 26-year-old is in his sixth season with the Cowboys so there's a sense of familiarity, but he's having one of his worse years in coverage right now. He's giving up a passer rating of 108.7 when targeted this season, including two touchdowns already. 

    It wouldn't hurt for the Cowboys to bring in a little competition in the slot, and Brian Poole would be a perfect candidate. 

    Playing for the Jets last season, the 29-year-old held opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 61.6 when targeted and held all opponents out of the end zone.

    Maurice Canady has been a disappointment after his great camp, and the Cowboys are thin on options to try instead of Lewis.

    Poole has a track record of success and was recently cut by the New Orleans Saints. That leaves him looking for a team, and the Cowboys could form a mutually beneficial relationship with him. 

DT Damon Harrison

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    Dallas had a front-row seat to the best years of Damon Harrison's career. His lone All-Pro season was with the New York Giants where he saw the Cowboys twice a year. 

    When the 32-year-old was searching for employment last year, he said it would "have been nice to be able to stay home" in relation to signing with the Cowboys. But Dallas showed no interest in the defensive tackle. 

    Fast-forward another year and the run defense in Dallas is still a concern. Damien Harris' 101-yard day was the latest example of that. 

    Harrison's last action came in Green Bay in 2020 when he posted a PFF grade of 66.9. That still makes him a serviceable lane-clogging one-technique who could be incorporated into the rotation. 

S Bradley McDougald

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    This one is a little out of the box, but defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has shown he isn't afraid to try a few things.

    The Cowboys signed Keanu Neal and moved him from strong safety to weakside linebacker. He has carved out a decent role in the Dallas defense playing 50 percent or more of the defensive snaps while also helping out on special teams. 

    The problem is that Neal's pass coverage has still been an issue. He's given up nine completions on nine targets and is grading out as the 69th linebacker in the league by Pro Football Focus' metrics. 

    Turning a box safety into a full-time linebacker is still a good idea. With Micah Parsons thriving as an edge-rusher, it would actually behoove the Cowboys to add depth even to fill the role left behind by Jaylon Smith. 

    However, the linebacker market is pretty bare. Instead, the Cowboys could look to double down on their safety-as-linebacker scheme and add Bradley McDougald. 

    Here's what PFF had to say about the 30-year-old when he hit free agency this offseason: "He does his best work in the box, where he has a 66th percentile coverage grade since 2018 to go with a mid-level grade against the run."

    That sounds like a prime candidate to play a hybrid linebacker-safety position like the role the Cowboys are creating for Neal. 

              

    All advanced stats and snap counts via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted. 

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