Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Monday his team may not draft a pass-rusher in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft. This comes two weeks after Jones said Dallas is targeting a pass-rusher with the No. 14 overall pick. Why the change of heart? Jones says Cowboys linebacker Victor Butler’s pass-rushing ability is enough to make Dallas think twice about what position to draft later this month.
“What’s ironic here relative to the pressure is we’re high on Butler,” Jones said. “We think Butler is somebody who can really give us the pass rush.”
The true ironic part is the fact the Cowboys used the franchise tag on outside linebacker Anthony Spencer last month and Jones is having second thoughts on drafting a pass-rusher in the first round this year. That may be true, but it doesn’t add up.
If the Cowboys are truly “high on Butler” as Jones said, then the team would have let Spencer walk as a free agent instead of tagging him for an $8.8 million salary this year and “risk” losing him next off-season. The common, initial reaction is to wonder what place Butler’s name has in this discussion.
“There’s some concern with setting the edge with him, but as far as the pass rush we know we can get plays out of Butler,” Jones said. “He had the highest ratio of successful plays for the time he played on our defense when he was in there.”
True, Butler has recorded 3.0, 2.0 and 3.0 sacks in each of his first three NFL seasons while only starting one game and very likely may be a force off the end if he’s ever offered the opportunity to play in place of Spencer. However, that still doesn’t fix the Cowboys’ problem.
Dallas needs help on the defensive line. That fact is plain, simple and no one can dispute it. If Jones really believes Butler is so “efficient” then he’d be listed as the starter and Spencer would be playing for a different team. Regardless of that situation, the Cowboys still need to address the defensive end position.
That can be accomplished by drafting a guy like Michael Brockers from LSU, like the Cowboys did in the recent Rant Sports 2012 NFL Mock Draft. He can play defensive end in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme or move down to nose tackle if Ryan wants to move Jay Ratliff to end. The Cowboys were hurt by poor play at defensive end in 2010 and 2011 and a guy like Brockers can change that.
Other pass-rushers to consider at No. 14 that have nothing to do with Butler or Spencer are Memphis’ Dontari Poe and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox. Either of these players would also help to fill the void that has plagued the Cowboys’ defense the past two seasons.
Butler is indeed a solid player and should start over Spencer, who shouldn’t still be on the team. However, that’s not what Jones believes, regardless of what he says and that should have nothing to do with drafting a pass-rusher this year.