Signing free agent linebacker Anthony Barr could bring young star Micah Parsons one step closer to being primarily a passing thrower for the Dallas Cowboys.
The club also had depth in mind with the addition of Barr, a four-time Pro Bowler who spent his first eight seasons in Minnesota. Dallas had shown interest in him long before training camp in California.
Barr begins his stint with the Cowboys on the roster physically unable to perform, not for injury but because the club is taking a conservative approach to preparing the 30-year-old for camp practices.
Parsons had 13 sacks on his way to winning the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, tied for third most for a freshman player since sacks became an official stat in 1982.
Due to injuries early last season, there were times when Parsons played the majority of his snaps at defensive end, and the Cowboys usually had two other linebackers on the field.
The addition of Barr means the first three picks in the new mix, which includes Leighton Vander Esch, are former first-round picks.
“I think when you look at the packages and the way we present Micah, I think it gives you another weapon, another great player on and off the ball,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think when you go in and out of packages as you build your system for a 17-game season, I know the defensive staff is really excited to have another piece.”
Barr’s career high for sacks is four since his rookie year with the Vikings in 2014, when he was the ninth overall pick. The 6-foot-5 Barr is more in the mold of Vander Esch (6-4) as a traditional linebacker.
When Parsons lines up on the defensive end, including in the three-point position the Cowboys occasionally consider, Barr and Vander Esch could be paired second tier behind him.
“I’m just trying to continue to help unlock his game and allow him to be the best player he can be,” Barr said of Parsons. “It’s pretty amazing what he’s been able to accomplish. I think he can just keep elevating and take it to the next level. I hope to be a tool and a resource for him and also learn from him and learn of all the guys.
Barr has been a constant presence through his first six seasons in Minnesota, including four straight trips to the Pro Bowl from 2015 to 2018. A torn pectoral muscle sidelined him for the Week 2 season in 2020. He then missed the first four games last year with a knee injury.
Because he didn’t sign this offseason, Barr’s first practice at camp will be his first since the end of last season. He said there was never a specific timetable for finding a new team.
“Timing is everything,” Barr said. “No rhyme or reason. It was just the right time for both parties. I hope it’s a good marriage.
Sophomore Jabril Cox was cleared for camp after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in Week 8 against Minnesota last season, although he recently received a few days off.
The Cowboys are counting on fifth-round rookie pick Damone Clark, who dropped out of the draft due to spinal fusion surgery that could sideline him all season. Cox and Clark’s injuries were two other reasons the Cowboys were interested in Barr.
McCarthy remembers Barr playing the Vikings as a coach in Green Bay. And part of Barr’s interest in Dallas came from senior defensive assistant George Edwards, who was Minnesota’s defensive coordinator for Barr’s first six seasons.
“We always had to be very, very aware of the confrontation you had with him,” McCarthy said. “We want to be multiple in our defensive packages and we want to keep developing different top plans. It suits us perfectly. »
NOTES: The Cowboys are thin at RB at camp with Rico Dowdle and rookie Aaron Shampklin in COVID-19 protocols. They have also lost their only full-back for at least two weeks as Ryan Nall battles a shoulder injury.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL