The Dallas Cowboys are off to a blazing 6-1 record, well atop the NFC and their division, but before continuing their push towards the postseason they are working the phones to improve their sub-par pass rush.
The New York Jets reportedly reached out to the Cowboys in regards to defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, according to ESPN, as Dallas sits tied for No. 21 in sacks. The report also included Miami Dolphins veteran Cameron Wake and Chicago Bears linebacker Willie Young as possible Cowboy targets, but due to their contracts, those seem unlikely at the moment.
Should the teams continue discussions, they will have only until Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET to complete a deal.
With quarterback play so crucial, a strong pass rush remains a top priority for most teams. The Cowboys understandably will want to upgrade their defense in hopes of making a serious push for the Super Bowl.
The 25-year-old Richardson has only 1.5 sacks this season, but he became one of the league’s best young defensive linemen during his second season in New York, recording 8.0 sacks and making the Pro Bowl in 2014.
Richardson’s contract calls for him to make more than $8 million next season, the final year of his rookie contract, which could be a major deterrent to Dallas.
The Cowboys have only $6.3 million in salary-cap space left for this season, according to Spotrac, and while that might seem like a minuscule amount league rules do allow teams to carry over cap space into the following season Dallas is actually in the red for 2017.
As their current payroll stands, the Cowboys will be $18.5 million over the cap next season, last in the NFL by nearly $6 million to the next closest squad, according to Spotrac.
Still, Dallas general manager and owner Jerry Jones has a reputation for taking risks and since releasing defensive end Greg Hardy the Cowboys have lacked a top pass rusher. Defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford leads the team with just 3.5 sacks, but no other player has more than two sacks.
For the Jets, who are 3-5 but still could put together a late playoff push, the potential deal does help shed some cap space and it avoids any controversy in attempts to re-sign Richardson. The Jets are already $11.2 million over the cap in 2017. Plus, New York already has second-year defensive end Leonard Williams and his cheaper contract, and can afford to part with Richardson.