Dallas Cowboys finalizing contract with DT Dontari Poe as defensive makeover continues

The Cowboys are bringing in another former first-round draft pick at defensive tackle.

Dallas is finalizing terms of a deal with Dontari Poe, a person with knowledge of negotiations confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday afternoon. The person was granted anonymity due to the sensitivity of negotiations.

Governing boards for NFL physicians and athletic trainers suspended free-agent physicals earlier this week to focus medical resources on the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Cowboys have agreed to terms with Poe, their second veteran defensive tackle acquisition during free agency. Dallas already signed Gerald McCoy to a three-year deal worth up to $18.3 million. First-year coach Mike McCarthy said recently that he expects the Cowboys defense to undergo significant schematic and personnel overhaul in the offseason.

Dallas lost four defensive starters during the first week of free agency.

“From what they tell me, the way (former defensive coordinator) Rod (Marinelli) formatted each position on where certain guys fit, it's going to be different here,” McCarthy said Feb. 26 over lunch at the scouting combine. “Because we're running a different scheme.”

McCoy and Poe arrive in Dallas with similar pedigrees.

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The 6-3, 346-pound Poe has made 118 starts since he was drafted No. 11 overall in 2012. He played five seasons in Kansas City, twice earning Pro Bowl selections, before joining the Falcons in 2017 and then the Panthers the last two seasons. Poe started 10 of 11 games in Carolina in 2019 but underwent season-ending surgery for a torn quadriceps in November. In the 11 games he was active, Poe played a little more than half of snaps at defensive tackle. He recorded four sacks and 22 tackles from the interior.

Poe also has thrown, caught and rushed for a touchdown each.

Dontari Poe has run for a TD, caught a TD and thrown for a TD in his NFL career pic.twitter.com/4VF9paMiFu

The 6-4, 300-pound McCoy, similarly, has started 139 games since he was drafted No. 3 overall in 2010. He’s notched 59 ½ sacks in his career and went to the Pro Bowl every year from 2012-17. McCoy has been consistent, averaging 15 starts and nearly seven sacks each of the last eight seasons.

He said last week on SiriusXM NFL that he believes the Cowboys “have all the pieces necessary” to win.

“They have so much talent on the team,” McCoy said. “It’s really a perfect situation for me to finish up.”

Poe and McCoy each arrive in Dallas with experience in different schemes, which could help ease the transition to new a new coaching staff under McCarthy. The coach hired Nolan as defensive coordinator and Jim Tomsula as defensive line coach.

The Cowboys lost four-year defensive tackle starter Maliek Collins to the Las Vegas Raiders. The team hasn’t extended an offer to exclusive-rights free agent Antwaun Woods.

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McCarthy has indicated his interest in bigger defensive tackles to clog the interior of the line and assist linebackers with stopping the run, which Dallas struggled with in 2019. Woods is 6-1 and 318 pounds.

Poe and McCoy join a defensive line built around left end DeMarcus Lawrence. The team lost starting right defensive end Robert Quinn to the Bears in free agency and could look for depth there, both in free agency and the draft.

The defensive line “needs to continue to get playmakers,” vice president of player personnel Will McClay said in January. “DeMarcus is the key to that because he’s our bellcow and we feel really good about that. But we want to keep adding guys to that position.”

The Cowboys selected defensive tackle Trysten Hill in the second round of the 2019 draft. His impact was minimal as a rookie, the Cowboys activating him for just seven games.

McCarthy said he planned to fit his scheme to his players rather than vice versa.

“At the end of the day, when we line up 53 of our guys, I want six rushers and I want four inside players,” McCarthy said. “Now, you want your team to look a certain way. I still believe in body types and measurables and you have limits. But if the guys is a really good player, especially when you get into pass rush? … When you're throwing away good players because they don't fit your system, you got to take a hard look at your system.

“If the guys is a good football player, he can play for me.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein

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