Cowboys add size, athleticism with Cedric Thornton

IRVING, Texas -- It won’t match the moves the New York Giants made on Wednesday to improve their defensive line, but the Dallas Cowboys improved their D-line on Thursday by signing Cedric Thornton.

Thornton’s four-year, $18 million deal pales in comparison to the deals signed by Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison, but the Cowboys believe they found a player who brings size and athleticism to their defensive interior.

Nick Hayden started every game he played for the Cowboys from 2013-15 at nose tackle and drew angst from the analytic types and fans who wanted more from him. He did not record a sack in three seasons. Thornton, who played defensive end in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 3-4 scheme, had four sacks in four seasons.

Thornton will line up next to Tyrone Crawford as the nose tackle, but the Cowboys believe he has the flexibility to play at different spots along the line in certain situations.

Thornton has the size (309 pounds) and strength to hold up against the run, but he has some quickness to push the pocket, which should help the defensive ends get pressure on the quarterback. It should also take some pressure off Crawford, the under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s scheme.

Thornton missed three games last season, but started every regular-season game (45) he played over the past three seasons.

The Cowboys are hardly done signing free agents or adding defensive linemen. They will also take a serious look in the draft to upgrade their defensive line.

The No. 1 goal of the Cowboys' offseason is to upgrade the defensive front. They thought they added some pieces in Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory to significantly affect the quarterback last season, but that pressure never really materialized.

Thornton offers something of a sensible signing while calming some fears from many that 26 hours into free agency, the Cowboys had done next to nothing.