With roughly $20 million in salary cap room, the Cowboys plan to be aggressive in free agency. They will have to be if they truly hope to make the move from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4.
The final decision will be dependent on if the Cowboys can acquire the players to make the odd front work.
As of now that is what they want to do and they are shaping their free agency and draft plans accordingly. How much more, of course, depends on which players the Cowboys are able to obtain.
The scheme requires much bigger ends than the 4-3, as well as a big, run-stopping defensive tackle. It also requires bigger linebackers.
Right now, the Cowboys do not have those parts, and the 3-4 would force them to play their best defensive players out of position.
Pro Bowler La'Roi Glover is small for a defensive tackle and would probably have to play an end on the weak side. That might mean the Cowboys would need to sign a nose tackle, such as the New York Jets' Jason Ferguson, in free agency. And defensive end Greg Ellis, at 6-feet-6, 277 pounds, resembles Patriots outside linebacker Willie McGinest (6-5, 270) more than ends Richard Seymour (6-6, 310) and Ty Warren (6-5, 300).
Unlike in the 4-3, where defensive ends are the primary pass rushers, the 3-4 requires the ends to occupy two offensive linemen while the linebackers come up and make plays.
"I don't know how effective I'd be in a 3-4," Ellis said. "If they have me be that big ol' guy, who lines up over the guard and the tackle, I just don't know that I'd be that effective there."
He isn't alone. Playing more 3-4 has a lot of Cowboys players wondering how they fit in.
The player whom the change would probably affect most is linebacker Dexter Coakley.
His job is precarious because of a $500,000 roster bonus due March 2, and the 3-4 would further endanger it. Coakley admits the only places he really fits in the 3-4 are at one of the two inside linebacker spots or anywhere in nickel packages.
"You usually have bigger linebackers in that defense," Coakley said. "The outside guys are pass rushers, and I can't do that. I can't go up against 300-pound tackles. That is not something I am used to doing, and I don't think I would be effective.
3-4 Defense Would be Drastic Change
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