July 31: McKinley had a “positive visit” with the Cowboys but will not sign with Dallas at this time, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken (via Twitter). The UCLA product always had multiple visits planned, and he’ll now head to a practice session with the Cardinals. Arizona lost Chandler Jones to free agency this off-season, and while the club added two full-backs in the third round of this year’s draft (Cameron Thomas and Myjai Sanders), having a more experienced option as part of the rotation might not be a bad idea.
30th July: Two of the best defensive free agents available reportedly paid a visit today. In two separate tweets, ESPN’s Field Yates announced this linebacker Joe Schobert had visited the Broncos and defensive end Takarist McKinley tried for the cowboys.
Schobert is a veteran linebacker, having competed as a middle linebacker during his tenures with the Browns and Jaguars and has had some outside linebacker experience with the Steelers over the past year. Since becoming a full-time starter in his sophomore season, Schobert has been a tackle machine who has never failed to amass at least 100 total tackles. During his sophomore season in Cleveland, Schobert even led the league with 144 tackles. He has shown over the years that he is capable of getting into the backfield, totaling 23.0 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hits and 11.0 sacks, and has a propensity for forcing turnovers with 10 interceptions, 30 defended passes and 10 forced fumbles in his six-year career.
Denver has shuffled around its linebackers this offseason, including the move Baron Browning, who started inside for the Broncos last year, to outside linebacker. It greatly increased outside linebacker depth behind Star Bradley Chubb with the additions of Free Agent Randy Gregory and rookie second-round pick Nick Bonito Adding to the depth of Browning and Malik Reedwho were already there. These moves created a small vacuum behind the starts within the linebackers Alex Singleton and Josey Gem. Schobert would be an excellent addition to Denver’s inside linebacker depth while also having the versatility to also contribute outside when needed.
Much more of a pass rusher than Schobert, McKinley amassed 20.0 sacks, 25.0 tackles for loss and 53 quarterback hits during a four-year tenure in Atlanta and a year in Cleveland. What limits McKinley is that he doesn’t offer much more on defense. He can assert his presence at the line of scrimmage and influence plays, but he doesn’t tend to get to the ball carrier often, owning a career-high of just 29 tackles in a season. He’s also been less effective lately. After recording 13.0 sacks in his first two seasons, McKinley has only averaged 7.0 in the three years since.
McKinley is a former first round pick of Cowboys defensive coordinator (and former Atlanta head coach) Dan Quinn. Familiarity with Quinn’s system, where he has shown the greatest productivity, could help him land a roster spot. His past relationship with Quinn aside, McKinley faces an uphill battle for the lineup as the Cowboys are already pretty stacked on defense. Dallas brought in Dante Fowler start opposite DeMarcus Lawrence and drafted Ole Miss Sack record holder for one season Sam Williams in the second round. McKinley could possibly try to provide an improvement over backups Tarell Basham, Dorance Armstrongand Chauncey Golstonbut those three were all on the team last year and need to be weaned.
It will likely be known in the coming days if either Schobert or McKinley will get a chance with a new team. If not, the two veterans will remain top names to watch in the defensive free agent market.