Speaking Monday night, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones wasn’t sure what the Raiders would do, but he knew what the team liked about Mayowa, who has just two career sacks in three seasons.
“At the end of the day you watch him on tape and you love the way he plays,” Jones said. “Obviously we’re trying to marry people to what we do on defense and [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] and the type of scheme he wants and the players he wants. The guy plays hard. He’s got the movement that we look for in defensive linemen and we feel like he’s got some upside. Do we think we’re getting the next DeMarcus Ware? Probably not. But when you don’t have the guy, then you’ve got to do it by committee and hope you get the right players, playing the right way so that you get pressure.”
The Cowboys have gone with a quantity over quality approach for their pass rush before. In 2014, Jeremy Mincey led the Cowboys with six sacks. The Cowboys had 13 players record at least a half-sack that season.
In 2015, the Cowboys thought they bolstered their pass rush significantly by signing defensive end Greg Hardy in free agency and adding Randy Gregory in the second round of the draft. Hardy had six sacks and Gregory did not have any. The Cowboys had just eight players record at least a half-sack in 2015.
So far, the Cowboys have not made an effort to re-sign Hardy, who is a free agent, despite the fact that Gregory will miss the first four games in 2016 because of a suspension and DeMarcus Lawrence is coming off back surgery.
“We fired at it last year and it didn’t work out for us, so we’ve got to keep trying to figure out a way to improve our defense and to me a big part of that is getting pressure on the passer,” Jones said.
The Cowboys were not going to take big shots on high-priced free agents such as Olivier Vernon and Mario Williams. They took smaller shots on Mayowa and Cedric Thornton, who signed a four-year deal worth $17 million.
Senior director of college and pro personnel Will McClay zeroed in on Mayowa early.
“He likes this guy,” Jones said, “and he sits with the defensive line guys and we all talk about it. This is one we felt like makes sense for us.”