FRISCO, Texas - As always, this is the uncertain time of the year.
Roughly one-third of NFL rosters turn over every offseason as each club looks for ways to improve its fortunes moving forward. The Cowboys are no different, as they'll face many tough decisions in the coming months.
With that in mind, we're evaluating each position on the roster and what choices face the front office in 2021. We continue our series with the defensive line:
5 Questions Up Front
As the Cowboys seek to improve the defense under new coordinator Dan Quinn, the line has some young talent around cornerstone DeMarcus Lawrence. But five players also have expiring contracts this spring:
Aldon Smith: Reinstated by the NFL after nearly five years out of football, Smith started all 16 games at right end and ranked second behind Lawrence in sacks (five) while playing close to three-fourths of the defensive snaps. Four of Smith's five sacks came in the first three games of the season, but he also finished second on the team in quarterback pressures (33). The Cowboys have indicated they'd like to re-sign Smith, but it remains to be seen what he might command on the free agent market and how much salary cap flexibility the Cowboys will create.
Tyrone Crawford: The 31-year-old has reached the end of the five-year, $45 million extension he signed in 2015. Last season he returned from double hip surgery and played mostly a reserve role at tackle and end for the first time since his rookie season. Injuries have taken a toll over the years, but he was able to play all 16 games in 2020, posting 17 tackles and two sacks.
Antwaun Woods: Set to be a restricted free agent, Woods gave Dallas some quality snaps at tackle and stepped into the starting lineup after the club parted ways with free-agent pickup Dontari Poe in late October.
Eli Ankou: Ankou arrived in a trade with the Texans a few days after Poe's release and played limited snaps at tackle in seven games, posting five tackles and one pressure.
Ron'Dell Carter: The Cowboys were happy to bring Carter back in November after the undrafted rookie was waived by the Colts. (Carter began the season on their practice squad before signing to Indy's active roster.) Able to play end or tackle, he's set to be an exclusive rights free agent.