- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

IRVING, Texas (AP) - The search for bargains in free agency by the Cowboys has moved on to their pass rush.

Dallas signed restricted free agent Benson Mayowa of Oakland to a three-year, $8.55 million offer sheet Friday, two people with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press.

The Raiders have five days to match the offer to their defensive end. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the signing wasn’t announced.

The Cowboys have been in the bottom third in the NFL in sacks the past three seasons, and are unlikely to bring back Greg Hardy after a tumultuous season filled with distractions related to his domestic violence case in North Carolina. He also had declining production late in the year.

After missing out on several unrestricted free agents, including former St. Louis end Chris Long, the Cowboys turned to a fourth-year player with two sacks in 30 games in the 24-year-old Mayowa.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound product of Idaho played two games as an undrafted rookie free agent with Seattle in 2013. He was cut at the end of training camp a year later and spent two seasons with the Raiders.

A generally weak pass rush was among several reasons the Dallas defense struggled to make game-changing plays in a 4-12 season played mostly without quarterback Tony Romo, who broke his left collarbone twice.

Dallas could also address the need with the No. 4 pick in next month’s draft.

DeMarcus Lawrence emerged as the team’s sacks leader with eight in his second season. He struggled as a rookie second-round pick in 2014, the same way Randy Gregory did last season. Gregory won’t have the benefit of a full second season because of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

The Cowboys have concentrated mostly on their own free agents this season, highlighted by the return of linebacker Rolando McClain and cornerback Morris Claiborne on relatively inexpensive deals.

Dallas still has salary cap space after restructuring the contracts of left tackle Tyron Smith and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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