What have the Cowboys gone out and done this time? Dallas picked up an interior defensive lineman who could change the way the team looks at the upcoming draft.
The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins on Thursday to bolster its strength in the trenches, a key move that could influence how the team navigates the draft come April.
Hankins was traded to Dallas in 2022, joining the Cowboys in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders.
The 340-pound space-eater played in five games for Dallas, recording 10 tackles and one tackle for loss.
Hankins previously spent stints on the New York Giants, Indianapolis Colts, and Raiders and developed a reputation as a massive run-stopper and lane-stuffer. Bringing him back was a smart move on Dallas’ part since the team’s run defense struggled at the start of last season and noticeably improved after the Hankins trade.
What does this all mean for Dallas moving forward?
Dallas Cowboys hold onto their star interior D-lineman Johnathan Hankins
For one thing, the Cowboys may not have to address the defensive line so early in the draft.
Dallas made some key re-signings this offseason by retaining pending in-house free agents like Leighton Vander Esch and Dante Fowler; with Hankins back on the roster, the Cowboys can sleep better knowing they have kept most of the same solid defensive core as last season.
In 2022, the Cowboys ranked at the top of several defensive categories including points per game allowed (20.1 points, good for fifth in the league), and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will want to further build upon that success in 2023.
Having traded for wideout Brandin Cooks, the gaping position left on the Cowboys’ roster is tight end, and top prospect Dalton Kincaid could be a worthy first-round selection. If Dallas wants to address its running back unit first, Bijan Robinson has also been a commonly mocked pick who could feasibly fill Ezekiel Elliott’s shoes.
In any case, getting Hankins back means the Cowboys don’t have to use a first or second-rounder on its defensive line and could shore up more concerning offensive position groups.
The former second-round pick now gets to go on his second rodeo with Dallas and will look to compete for more than just a playoff berth in 2023.