Sources tell the Star-Telegram that Charlton had minor arthroscopic surgery on his ankle. He will miss OTAs and minicamp but should be ready to go for training camp in July.
It’s the second off-season surgery for Charlton, who had shoulder surgery shortly after the season.
Unlike Lawrence and Jones, who both are proven starters with defined roles and Pro Bowls on their resume, Charlton’s spot on the roster could be adversely affected by missing any time at all.
Vice president Stephen Jones has already made it clear that this is a big year for Charlton, who has only four career sacks since the team made him a first-round choice in 2017.
“Taco obviously hasn’t made his way into the starting lineup yet,” Jones said before the draft on 105.3 The Fan. “He had a [shoulder] injury last year, which set him back. He didn’t necessarily come back as strong as he did before he got hurt. So this is a big year for Taco to step up. We certainly need him with our defensive front.”
Charlton played in 11 games with seven starts in 2018 but he appeared in only three of the last eight regular-season games, as he fell out of favor with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys have made significant additions at defensive end since the end of the season. They traded for veteran Robert Quinn and took two DEs in the 2019 NFL Draft - Joe Jackson and Jalen Jelks - to go along with holdovers in Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford and Dorance Armstrong.
There is also still a chance that Randy Gregory returns from suspension before the season.
So Charlton needs to return from this surgery ready to play the best football of his career or he could possibly face being a cut-down casualty or trade bait. The Cowboys are not going to hold the train for him, according to scouting director Will McClay.
“I’m expecting Taco to strap on his pads, put on his helmet and go out there and compete every day to prove that he belongs on this roster,” McClay recently said of Charlton on 103.3FM ESPN. “The injury and all those things, he’s going to have to overcome that and be available. I expect Taco to put his best foot forward and battle and compete for a spot, but you know what? We’re not going to hold the train for anybody.
“If you want to compete and roll with us, here it is. Everybody is going to have that opportunity. I expect Taco to be a much better player and a much more productive player. He was turning the corner last year. Injuries happen, and all that other stuff. I expect him to go and battle and compete. If him or anybody else isn’t willing to compete, hopefully, we have enough stuff there to keep us strong throughout the process.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr. has covered the Dallas Cowboys as a beat writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram since 1997. That includes just two playoff wins, six coaches and countless controversies from the demise of the dynasty teams of the 1990s through the rollercoaster years of the Tony Romo era until Jason Garrett’s process Cowboys.