Dallas Cowboy Jay Ratliff was arrested Tuesday for a suspected DUI after crashing into an 18 wheeler. A particularly disturbing event having just recently buried a teammate killed from a drunk driving accident involving another teammate Josh Brent.
Ratliff has been a Pro Bowl defensive lineman in the past but in recent years, his productivity has fallen off and he has missed a lot of games from a variety of injuries. Ratliff was only able to play in 6 games last season for Dallas.
It was thought that Ratliff would play DT in the new 4-3 defense the Cowboys are putting together but will Dallas now consider cutting Ratliff? He is not getting any younger at age 31, he has had a difficult time staying healthy enough to be counted on to play, and he had an incident with Jerry Jones in December where they exchanged words in the locker room.
Even before this recent DWI accident, Ratliff was becoming more trouble than he is worth. The scales were tipping toward the cold fact that Ratliff isn’t worth his pay any longer. But this DWI could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back for Ratliff.
By cutting Ratliff before June 1, Dallas will free up some much needed salary cap room. They may use that to sign Spencer but at this point we don’t know if Spencer is returning next year. Spencer had a good season but he may come with a higher price tag than Jerry is willing to pay.
DRAFT: How does it impact the draft if they part ways with Ratliff? Then adding depth at defensive tackle will become more urgent. Before this incident with Ratliff, I felt the Cowboys would draft either a defensive lineman or an offensive lineman with their first pick. My personal preference would have been an offensive lineman but now I think it may be leaning toward a defensive tackle for their 4-3. And they need someone who can play right away.
Options: The Cowboys do have Lissemore and Bass that can play DT. Also DE Hatcher could possibly be moved to DT. But still, the Cowboys will need to add depth at defensive tackle.
Prospects in the draft? Dallas will select at number 18 in the draft and to be honest, I actually think there are better DE prospects at that point in the draft but let’s look at the DTs thought to be available around 18 in the first round:
Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State– Solid run defender and can also pressure the QB as well. Not to be counted on to play every down as he gets noticeably tired. Could add depth right away at the DT position for Dallas.
Jesse Williams, Alabama– Very strong and a solid run defender but doesn’t offer much in a pass rush. Is probably more of a NT in a 3-4 defense.
Shariff Floyd, Florida– There are mock drafts that have Dallas drafting Floyd. A nice combination of quickness and hand use. He played DE in the past but is built for DT in the NFL.
John Jenkins, Georgia- In my view, Jenkins will be best at the next level as a NT in the 3-4. He is without a doubt a big wide run stopper in the middle but is not going to blow past offensive tackles to get a sack. If Dallas were staying in the 3-4, I like this pick but since they are going to a 4-3, he may not be their best option. Considered a “boom or bust” pick by most experts.
If Dallas parts ways with Ratliff and they do look for DT help early in the draft, I think Hankins and Floyd may offer the best fit in a 4-3. There are also solid DT prospects available in the mid rounds of the draft as well.