The Dallas Cowboys have released former Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff, as he was eligible to come off the PUP list and they had no plans to activate him. The Cowboys had switched from a 3-4 to 4-3 scheme this offseason, leaving Ratliff without an ideal position. He made four Pro Bowls as nose tackle with the Cowboys, but he has struggled to recover from a hamstring strain this season.
Ratliff may not be the player he once was, but he is still a solid veteran who can contribute. Any team that signs him will need to be patient with his recovery, but a playoff contender who adds him could end up with a really solid player on their defensive line down the stretch.
There is one contender that would be very well served to sign Ratliff, and that is the New Orleans Saints. The Saints’ defensive coordinator is Rob Ryan, who coached Ratliff in Dallas each of the last two seasons. The Saints have made huge strides defensively under Ryan, and Ratliff could help them continue to improve.
The Saints rank 21st in the NFL in rush yards allowed per game, and Pro Football Outsiders ranks their defensive line 26th in the NFL. Broderick Bunkley is not a bad nose tackle, but he is certainly nothing special. Ratliff would be able to bring a veteran presence and a more traditional nose tackle to the Saints, which would be a big boost for their run defense.
At 32 years old, Ratliff is not a total cure for the Saints nor a long term solution. However, he could prove to be a solid stopgap and form a strong tandem with Bunkley. The Saints are at 5-1 and comfortably leading the NFC South, so they could afford to be patient and wait for Ratliff to be fully healthy. Even if he doesn’t return until the second half of the season, he could still help the Saints down the stretch and in the playoffs.