The Dallas Cowboys have many talented players on the defensive line, but the rise of one defender could create a tough salary cap situation in the future. Osa Odighizuwa continued his ascension with Dallas’ dominant 40-0 win over the New York Giants in Week 1, and that has come with an underlying message: Pay me.
Cowboys stars such as linebacker Micah Parsons and corner Trevon Diggs made headlines with their plays, but Odighizuwa was just as much a factor in the defensive display. The third-year defensive tackle had his first 2.0-plus sack game of his young career despite just playing 27 snaps.
Having defensive ends like Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence certainly helps the former UCLA Bruin, but he is now producing at such a level that his contributions can’t be chalked up to the talent around him.
Every strong performance is raising the price of having Odighizuwa on the roster, and Dallas may be better off by going ahead and starting contract negotiations rather than waiting. If the 25-year-old DT’s career trajectory continues at the same rate, he will be looking for a new deal that pays him top-end money for his position.
Osa Odighizuwa Hitting New Levels in Dallas
Odighizuwa has been contributing since he first arrived with the Cowboys as a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, but he has turned up his play to a different level since Week 5 of the 2022 regular season.
Including the Giants’ win, the former UCLA standout has six sacks over his past 14 games according to Pro Football Reference. After Dallas’ first four games of 2022 saw him fail to even touch a QB, he has found something that is translating to success. That stretch also includes 14 QB hits, a forced fumble, and 10 total tackles for loss.
That is elite production for an interior defensive lineman. Few interior players have the ability to beat and bypass guards and centers, but Odighizuwa has turned flashes into consistent pressure.
Further, the 2.0 sacks against the Giants mean he now has 4.0 sacks in his past four games, including the playoffs last season. Over that span, that is the most among all Cowboys players, including Micah Parsons. This all while he continues to plug holes and be a thorn in the side of opposing rushing attacks, as seen below.
Giants trying to run GY Counter, Osa Odighizuwa completely destroys it from the 3T. Dallas’ team speed on defense at every level is terrifying pic.twitter.com/XEryRvGnO6
— JP Acosta (Pug Dederson Stan Acct) (@acosta32_jp) September 11, 2023
Odighizuwa could just be the hot hand, but the sample size continues to grow and it continues to point towards upside rather than regression.
Cowboys Can Avoid Bigger Contract By Paying Early
In terms of the top 10 highest average annual value (AAV,) the cheapest contract belongs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and star DT Vita Vea at $17.7 million per year. Spotrac shows that the highest belongs to Los Angeles Rams DT Aaron Donald at $31.6 million, but Dallas and Odighizuwa aren’t anywhere close to that.
But if the third-year player establishes himself as another All-Pro-worthy player on the defense, Vea’s deal may not be out of the realm of possibility. Odighizuwa is only 25, and, on paper, should have the best years of his career still ahead.
Even when looking at the No. 20 highest AAV for DTs, the New England Patriots’ contract with DT Davon Godchaux, the number comes out to $10.4 million a season. Godchaux is the better run defender, but Odighizuwa gets after quarterbacks and that’s what teams value the most.
With Parsons’ second contract looming, as well as the team already paying Diggs and names like offensive tackle Terence Steele, paying Odighizuwa could become difficult. Getting ahead of the curve before the next round of elite contracts set the market could prove hugely beneficial for Dallas’ salary cap management.
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