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Carlos Watkins is a low-cost, much-needed FA re-signing for Cowboys

Underrated is a sticky classification to bestow upon a player. Something underrated to one person could be overrated to another. By nature the argument is subjective, leading to many spirited debates not even confined to sports.

Calling a member of the Dallas Cowboys underrated promises outrage in one direction or the other. Often applied to players with big names and in big positions, underrated has lost some of its meaning as of late. Carlos Watkins, a rotational player deep down the roster, might just be the most truly underrated player in Dallas’ free agent class.

Watkins came to the NFL as a fourth-round pick out of Clemson. After four seasons with Houston, he joined the Cowboys in 2021. Seemingly everyone’s favorite player to cut in annual training camp roster prognostications, Watkins found a way to stick around in Dallas.

Over the past two seasons he’s played in 27 games along the defensive line. He’s shown the ability to play inside, outside and even in a two-point stance on the edge. The 29-year-old lineman has been a do-it-all player for Dan Quinn and an important front-four rotation piece on game days.

With only five career sacks and 132 combined tackles, Watkins isn’t lighting up the stat sheet. Pro Football Focus graded his 2022 as spectacularly average, but such is the nature of a blue-collar lineman.

Watkins is often tasked with occupying blockers and freeing up opportunities for others to make plays. At 6-foot-3, 305 pounds, he’s not the immoveable object the 340-pound Johnathan Hankins is next to him, just like he’s far from the backfield-crashing presence the 265-pound DeMarcus Lawrence is.

All three are listed as 6-foot-3, but that’s where the similarities end.

Watkins is a high-motor player who complements those around him. He can two-gap and he can be trusted in his run fits. He has the girth to stand up against the run but the lateral movement to pursue down the line.

When scanning the list of pending Cowboys free agents, names like Leighton Vander Esch, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz and Donovan Wilson all jump out. Even Hankins has pulled a fair amount of press for his play in 2022. But all of those players are big names that are likely pull down good money this off-season.

Watkins is a player who’s played six years and earned just $5,757,148 million in his career. At under $1 million/season, Watkins has a pretty good case for being the most underrated player in Dallas’ free agent class.

Ideally, the Cowboys bring back a handful of their pending free agents in 2023. While the big names will drive the headlines, it’s the blue collar workers like Watkins who will keep things humming. Playing a modest amount of snaps, for a modest sum of money, serving a variety of different roles, Watkins was an extremely useful player for Dallas in 2022.

With any luck, the Cowboys can keep him around on another affordable deal in 2023.

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