With the NFL offseason now officially underway, it’s never too early to start focusing on the next order of business, which is free agency. The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents who can sign with other teams starting on March 9, unless they strike a new deal with the Cowboys before then.
Over the next two weeks, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.
Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Richard Ash.
What’s The Deal: Another late-season addition who didn’t make much of an impression before the campaign concluded. The Cowboys signed Ash away from Jacksonville’s practice squad on Dec. 27, one day removed from their Week 16 win against Detroit. The second-year veteran played in the season finale against Philadelphia, where he tallied two tackles. He was a healthy scratch for the playoff game against Green Bay, when injured mainstays Terrell McClain and Cedric Thornton returned to the lineup – leaving no room on the active roster.
Cowboys Highlight: It’s always tough transitioning from one team to another on short notice, let alone playing in a game. The Week 17 matchup with Philadelphia might have been meaningless, but Ash still switched to a new team and a new scheme and got up to speed in five days. That’s not going to win him any awards, but still – kudos.
Argument To Keep: When you sign a player off another team’s practice squad, there’s a contractual obligation to keep him on your 53-man roster for at least three weeks. So the Cowboys liked Ash enough to commit roughly a month of their time to him. He’s not going to cost much to bring back, and the Cowboys will need bodies on the defensive line when they get to training camp. It’s unlikely he’ll make much of an impact, but there’s no real risk in letting him develop over the course of the offseason.
Argument To Let Go: There’s a dozen other ways the Cowboys could fill this role going forward. There will be other inexpensive free agents, and there will obviously be plenty of undrafted defensive tackles after the draft. Think back to the hype surrounding Rodney Coe last spring. Ash has the advantage of two years’ worth of NFL experience, but he’s not a guy anyone is going to make a priority.
Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Take: Ash was added to the roster from the Jacksonville practice squad late in the season. He boasts more power than quickness or speed. He is the complete opposite of Maliek Collins when it comes to getting off the ball. Doesn’t have the explosive quickness or that ability to attack the gap like Collins has. I see him as a nose only, whereas Collins can line up at either spot. He makes plays within the tackle box, where his effort gets him free more than technique. You don’t see centers or guards get much movement on him one-on-one. He can play square when he gets off the block, and he is a wrap-up tackler at the point. He is limited in his range but not in the effort to try and get outside. He will make the play if it’s right at him. You’ll see limited playing speed and quickness – upper and lower body power is his best trait. There were snaps where he was on point finding the ball and was able to finish – then others where he was wrapped up with the blocker and the ball went right past him. My assessment is that he’s not good enough to re-sign.