The Dallas Cowboys could soon be forced to replace a key starter during the offseason.
As suggested by Bleacher Report’s Matt Holder, the Cowboys could be an ideal landing spot for Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Shelby Harris. Holder mentions the 32-year-old veteran as a possible option for the Cowboys due to his low cost and because Dallas will have two key defensive tackles — starter Johnathan Hankins and backup Neville Gallimore — hit free agency.
“Harris would be a good fit in part because he’s an older veteran who shouldn’t command too much money on the open market,” writes Holder. “On the field, he has experience playing up and down the defensive line throughout his career which could help him serve as the team’s first defensive lineman off of the bench.”
Why the Cowboys Could Consider Signing Shelby Harris
Harris is currently on a one-year, $3.5 million deal. Outside of a three-year deal, $27 million deal he previously signed with the Broncos, Harris has never earned a salary more than $3.5 million in a single season.
According to OverTheCap’s contract valuation of Harris, his worth is $3.1 million.
The 10-year veteran has started 67 of 111 games during his 10-year career. Harris currently plays as a key reserve for the Browns, appearing in 39% of the defensive snaps for Cleveland this season. He has 24 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 13 games and three starts this season.
Over the course of his career, Harris has 285 tackles, 54 quarterback hits and 26 sacks.
According to Pro Football Focus, Harris has posted a 71.6 defensive grade and 73.9 pass-rushing grade this season. His pass-rushing grade is actually the second-highest of his career.
At his peak, Harris posted a 90.0 defensive grade with the Denver Broncos during the 2018 season and an 83.5 pass-rushing grade during the 2020 season with the Broncos. Among all defensive tackles, Harris’ defensive grade ranked 10th during the 2018 season and sixth during the 2020 season.
With the exception of Osa Odighizuwa, Harris has a higher defensive grade than every Cowboys defensive lineman, including both Gallimore (58.8 defensive grade) and Hankins (45.7 defensive grade).
Why the Cowboys Could Target Bargain Contracts in Free Agency
As noted by Holder, the Cowboys will enter the offseason $13.5 million over the cap.
“With Jonathan Hankins’ and Neville Gallimore’s contracts about to expire, Dallas will be looking for some depth on the interior defensive line this offseason,” writes Holder. “But they also need to be cost-effective when addressing this need as Spotrac estimates the ‘Boys will begin the offseason about $13.5 million over the cap.”
The 31-year-old Hankins has started all 13 games for the Cowboys this season, posting 26 tackles and three sacks. Over the course of his 11-year career, Hankins has started 133 of 151 games and has posted 402 tackles, 50 quarterback hits and 17.5 sacks.
Hankins is currently playing on just a $1.3 million deal and his annual salary topped out at $9 million during a three-year run with the Indianapolis Colts between the 2017 and 2019 seasons.
If the Cowboys lose either/both Hankins and Gallimore in free agency, they could always sign Harris, who tends to play on cheaper, bargain deals compared to most veteran defensive tackles.