Thursday, January 19, 2023

Cowboys pushed to sign Playmaker to replace ex-Pro Bowler

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The Dallas Cowboys could be the perfect landing spot for a defensive playmaker.

A column written by Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger names linebacker Germaine Pratt a defensive free agent the Cowboys should pursue. As Spielberger mentions, current linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will be a free agent this offseason. He suggests Dallas replace Vander Esch with Cincinnati Bengals free agent Germaine Pratt.

The 26-year-old linebacker has been a starting linebacker for the Bengals since the 2019 season and has notched at least 89 tackles in each of the past three seasons. Pratt placed second on the team in tackles that season.

“Dallas could bring Vander Esch back again in 2023 after playing well in a year-long flier, but Pratt represents a potential upgrade after a career year,” Spielberger said. “He’s an early down tapper who has steadily evolved as a coverage player and missed just 5.5% of tackle opportunities in 2022 – only four linebackers with as many tackles as Pratt missed fewer tackles in the year .”

Digging deeper into PFF’s grades, Pratt actually ranks among the best linebackers in the league. His defensive rating of 79.2 ranks 10th among all linebackers in the NFL.

Pratt’s 90.2 degrees in coverage actually leads all linebackers. However, Spielberger warns that this note could be misleading due to the Bengals’ tendency to pull the veteran linebacker in third-down situations.

“While Pratt’s 90.1 coverage ratio is undoubtedly impressive, there’s a small caveat here,” Spielberger said. “The Bengals routinely took Pratt off the field on third downs because they didn’t like his coverage skills and gave him a very positive look compared to fellow linebacker Logan Wilson. It seems very likely that he will make free agent and could continue his growth elsewhere.”

According to Spotrac, Pratt’s market value is $7.2 million a year over four seasons — which would only make him the 36th highest-paid linebacker in the league.

By comparison, Vander Esch himself is no slouch. The 26-year-old linebacker had a 72.8 defensive rating and 77.0 coverage during the 2022 season. Among linebackers with at least 500 snaps, his defensive grade ranks 22nd among all linebackers, while his coverage grade ranks 10th among all linebackers.

The former Pro Bowler had a very effective 2022 season after struggling with inconsistent play and injuries for the past three seasons. Vander Esch notched 90 tackles in just 14 games played, ranking second among all Cowboys defensemen in tackles.

If Vander Esch decides to seek a better deal in free agency, the Cowboys can replace him for a better and more consistent linebacker at a bargain price.

The Cowboys signed an insurance policy for Brett Maher.

After the veteran kicker missed his first four extra points — an NFL record for a single game — in Dallas’ 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their first playoff game, the Cowboys signed one of their former kickers.

After NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Dallas signs Tristan Vizcaino to the training squad. Vizcaino previously spent time on the Cowboys roster during the 2020 offseason.

“The Cowboys plan to sign kicker Tristan Vizcaino on the practice roster pending the physical,” Pelissero reported Wednesday, Jan. 18. But now they have insurance.”

Dallas previously stated her plan was to stay with Maher after his struggles in the playoff game. But it’s clear that the Cowboys will turn to Vizcaino if his struggles continue.

Dallas previously stated her plan was to stay with Maher after his struggles in the playoff game. But it’s clear that the Cowboys will turn to Vizcaino if his struggles continue.

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