The Dallas Cowboys left many fans scratching their heads with the Micah Parsons pick. But maybe there’s more of a plan in place than some might expect.
It was clear as day that the Dallas Cowboys were blindsided in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft before they eventually traded down from No. 10 to 12 and selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Jerry Jones obviously wanted Patrick Surtain II, who the Broncos sniped with the pick before them. Thus, they moved back and landed Parsons.
Their choice with the 12th pick was met with a divisive reaction. There’s no denying the talent of the former Penn State star. He’s an athletic marvel who, even though he’s relatively new to the position, already has terrific instincts for playing in the middle of the field. He’s going to be immediately effective against the run and also be a dynamic blitzer.
However, the issue is twofold. First, linebackers in the first round of the NFL Draft have a low hit rate, thus historically diminishing the odds of this being a good pick. The second part of the matter is the fact that, with Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and Keanu Neal on the roster, the Cowboys don’t have any space for Parsons on the field.
But while this could’ve been signaled with the pick, the plan for Parsons with the Dallas Cowboys is starting to come into focus.
The plan for Micah Parsons with the Dallas Cowboys doesn’t mean it’s wise.
On Monday, the Cowboys elected to not pick up Vander Esch’s fifth-year option, per NFL Network’s Jane Slater. That means that, after the 2021 season, Smith would be the only linebacker under contract aside from the rookies. And with Smith’s struggles, it’s also worth noting that the Cowboys could get out of his deal next offseason while saving $5 million and taking on $6.8 million in dead cap, per Spotrac.
When you take that into account and combine it with the fact that the Cowboys not only took Parsons in the first round but also used a mid-round pick on Jabril Cox out of North Dakota State, things are starting to take shape.
Dallas is reinventing the linebacker corps on the fly. They are getting the ultra-athletic Parsons in the fold as an immediate run-stuffer and blitzer who can develop into more while Cox can be the reliable coverage player. Given that Smith and Vander Esch have struggled to be a consistent duo, that would make sense as to why the Cowboys are thinking this way.
That being said, that doesn’t necessarily make the process smart. “Process over results” is a common mantra and it undoubtedly applies to team-building in some respect. So when there are obvious other weaknesses on the roster, that doesn’t mean reinventing something like this on the fly is the best course of action.
At the end of the day, we don’t know how successful this will be. But it does appear that the Cowboys have a plan for their NFL Draft haul beyond just being spooked by the Broncos taking Surtain. That, in itself, has to be at least some sort of comfort to fans.