- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Dallas Cowboys' signing of defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove on Thursday got buried under the at-long-last resolution of the Doug Free matter. But as Calvin Watkins writes on ESPNDallas.com, it says something about where the Cowboys are in terms of their defensive line. As Dallas transitions to a 4-3 front this year, there has been some concern raised about depth. The starting quartet of DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff appears very good, but should one of those guys get injured or need a rest, things get dicey behind them. That's where Hargrove comes in, as the Cowboys believe he can play end or tackle on a 4-3 line.
But Hargrove is going to turn 30 before the start of the season, and since the team didn't address the defensive line in the draft, it's worth wondering about the future there, as Calvin does in his post. Spencer and Hatcher could both conceivably be gone next year. Ratliff's about to turn 32 and always seems to be banged up. Ware has worn down a bit toward the end of recent seasons, and a move up to the line could exacerbate that. Calvin lists Tyrone Crawford, Sean Lissemore, Rob Callaway and Kyle Wilber as young defensive linemen who could factor into the starting mix as early as next year. Lissemore is the most proven of that group, but one of the interesting subplots on the defensive line in Dallas this year will be whether any of them can show enough to instill confidence that they'll play significant roles in the future. The extent to which any or all of them do will affect what the Cowboys do about the defensive line next offseason.
In the meantime, I agree with Calvin that the Cowboys' defensive line appears to have been built for 2013 success without much of an eye toward what lies beyond. You can't fix every problem every offseason, and much of the Cowboys' draft this year was focused on offense due to their belief that they'll be better on defense with better health. Look for defensive line to be a major focus in the 2014 offseason, regardless of the way 2013 goes.