Cowboys smart to go for Hardy risk over Murray, Peterson reward

The Cowboys sealed the deal for prized defensive end Greg Hardy on Wednesday, which means they can’t afford a trade for Adrian Peterson. And the potential to land Hardy in the first place was made possible by Dallas’ pass on DeMarco Murray.

That’s the right decision. Adding Hardy — not keeping Murray or going after Peterson — allows the Cowboys to keep up with NFC heavyweights.

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Murray was a huge part of Dallas’ playoff breakthrough last season, and Peterson could have filled that void as an established, prolific power runner. But it’s much harder to get a free agent of Hardy’s ilk (let alone on the open market).

Hardy, having played just one game for the Panthers in 2014 before he was put on the NFL’s exempt list following a domestic violence conviction, clearly wasn’t returning to Carolina. The Cowboys, through a one-year contract worth up to $13.1 million, give the 27-year-old a chance to earn almost exactly what he did with the Panthers last season. But to earn it all, he must be as dominant as he was during his 2013 Pro Bowl season.

That’s the part Dallas is banking on. The potential impact on a defense that really needs him far outweighs the possibility Hardy, despite his charges being dismissed, could be suspended for up to two games by the NFL.

The Cowboys finished 12-4 last season and nearly made the NFC title game despite fielding one of the league’s worst pass rushes — they had 28 sacks as a team, No. 28 in the NFL. Dallas struggled to get consistent pressure with its front four, and Jeremy Mincey led a shaky group of ends.

Hardy’s talents, both in wreaking havoc on quarterbacks and in stopping the run, are a game-changer. The Cowboys now have an attention-drawing presence that takes them from a bend-but-don’t-break approach to more of a playmaking attitude. One doesn’t get the nickname “Kraken” without such an attitude.

This all is assuming Hardy won’t do anything do keep himself off the field for another season. Dallas has been willing to take chances on (and be patient with) players with baggage during the Jerry Jones era. Some have worked; some have not.

MORE: Hardy the biggest 2014 franchise tag fail

Hardy is worth the shot because of how good he can be; how he can fill a glaring weakness and, maybe, turn it into a strength. That’s Jones recognizing that his playoff window, although it just reopened, can close just as quick with Tony Romo not getting any younger.

Another Jones trademark in recent years has been rebuilding through the offensive line, and the Cowboys have an elite, young unit intact for 2015. Murray or Peterson’s toughness/explosiveness would be nice, but Dallas can find fresher, younger legs in one of the deepest running back draft classes in recent memory.

Jones drafted Murray in the third round, and he should feel confident about finding another back who can take advantage of such superb blocking. Peterson and the Cowboys had appeal — glossy player joining a glossy team — but that play didn’t fit with the owner’s most substantial moves of late.

The Seahawks upgraded with Jimmy Graham, the Packers retained key free agents and the Eagles, the biggest threat to the Cowboys in the division, remixed to get better with Murray among others.

Dallas had to make its own aggressive move. It was a no-brainer to make it Hardy … not Peterson, or anybody else.

Source: MSN Sports

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