Asked if Ratliff would return, Garrett said, "Absolutely."
Ratliff was limited to six games in 2012 because of injuries in the offseason (plantar fasciitis), preseason (high ankle sprain) and regular season (sports hernia). He did not have a sack but finished with 25 tackles and 10 quarterback pressures.
"In games he played this year, he really played like Jay Ratliff plays," Garrett said.
Ratliff, however, had a late-season dust-up with owner and general manager Jerry Jones in the locker room after a game, and was arrested in January for drunken driving. The Cowboys have expressed disappointment in the arrest but will let the legal and NFL processes play out.
Ratliff, who will turn 32 in August, would count $7 million against the salary cap in 2013 and is due a base salary of $5 million. If he is on the roster on March 12, $1.3 million of that base salary becomes guaranteed.
"Jay Ratliff is an outstanding football player," Garrett said. "He's been a Pro Bowl player for us. He played with a great demeanor, passion. He has a fire for the game ... We'll see where he fits (in the 4-3 defense) as we go through the spring and training camp, but he's a great football player and we missed him last year. We've got to get him healthy, first and foremost, but we're excited to get him in this scheme."
Later Friday, Jones backed Garrett's assertion.
"I think he's going to be a great fit for this scheme," Jones said.