IRVING, Texas – With free agency beginning on March 12, the Cowboys have several decisions to make regarding the improvement of this team.
Last year, they were extremely aggressive in free agency, signing seven players, including Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton and Dan Connor in the first two days of the signing period.
Don't expect that kind of frenzy this year. In fact, it could be rather slow depending on how much cap room the Cowboys have by March 12.
But over the next week, all three DallasCowboys.com staff writers will help break down five different positions that could be intriguing for the Cowboys in free agency.
Today, we'll continue with the offensive line.
What They Have:
The Cowboys have plenty of depth when it comes to the offensive line. But the question now is if the Cowboys actually have quality depth. Sure, they can field a team across the line, but it doesn't mean an upgrade isn't necessary. At left tackle, Tyron Smith is set there but that's about the only spot that doesn't have a question mark. Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau should be back at guard but don't be surprised if the Cowboys address that spot in free agency and the draft. Phil Costa re-signed for a two-year deal, but the money given to him doesn't suggest he must be the starter. Costa will get the chance to compete for the job but just like the guard spot, the Cowboys will seek improvements. Right tackle is a mystery now with Doug Free still on the roster and yet to redo his deal. Jermey Parnell will probably get the shot to win the job. Don't forget about guys like Kevin Kowalski, Ron Leary and David Arkin has guys who can provide backup depth in the middle of the line.
- *Nick Eatman *
Who's Out There:
Brandon Albert and Ryan Clady might have been two of the most prized free agent offensive linemen available, which is why Kansas City and Denver, respectively, used their franchise tags on the tackles. Still, there's a number of high-profile tackles still available in free agency, including Miami's Jake Long, Cincinnati's Andre Smith, New England's Sebastian Vollmer and, as of this week, Kansas City's Eric Winston. Adding to the offensive line free agent class are guards Brandon Moore and Andy Levitre, who may be more affordable but no less effective than the free agent tackles. Just a few seasons into their NFL careers, Long, Smith and Vollmer might command a price tag too high for the Cowboys, so it may be more realistic to sign a proven, veteran guard like the 32-year old Moore. Though they're both older players, Moore and Winston have demonstrated a distinct reliability on the field, each playing in more than 100 consecutive regular season games. There's a decent amount of players available in free agency at both tackle and guard that could come in and help solidify the line immediately, if the team can spend the money to get them.
- Rowan Kavner
What They'll Do:
When the front office and coaches sit down for the end of season review, there is always an area or two where you ended up better than what you thought you were going to be coming out of camp, and then there are positions where as a staff you missed the boat completely. When the front office made the determination to spend its resources on defensive players, there was going to be a position that was going to suffer, and in this case it was the offense line. There were players that were available like Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs that would have been nice players to have on the squad but without those funds that you had already committed, it was going to be difficult to sign them. When I worked for this club in the scouting department there was a commitment to paying offensive linemen like Larry Allen, Flozell Adams and Ryan Young. After I was gone they spent money on Leonard Davis and extended the contract of Andre Gurode. To say this front office hasn't cared about the offensive line here is a mistake. Go back and look at the number of draft picks that has been spent on offensive linemen. This includes selections that we made under Bill Parcells who throughout his career has put together some of the best lines in football. There are selections that were made that should be the cornerstones of your team, but instead those players are nowhere to be found. To now make up for that, you have to allocate funds to players that are not at the level of Nicks or Grubbs, and that is where the struggle begins. [embedded_ad]
This front office made the commitment to draft Tyron Smith in the first round and by all indications it appears to have paid off, but there needs to be more selections like him. What you have to remember is that not all teams have great players along their line. The teams that are successful are able to hide one player, but try to hide three, and it doesn't work all that well. What direction they go this offseason with this line will depend on what changes the coaches have in mind scheme wise. Will it be more of a power/gap style or will it be a zone scheme? Will Jason Garrett or Bill Callahan call the plays? Those are the questions that have to be answered going forward in trying to fit players to match the scheme. For example in the upcoming draft, Alabama guard Chance Warmack is a better fit for the power/gap scheme while North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper is a better fit for the zone scheme. Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson is the same way. If they go the route of free agency, guard Donald Thomas in New England shows up well on tape, as does Tyronne Green of the Chargers. The feeling that I have today is that they will look to the draft to add potential starters and depth, as well, because from what I have studied in this draft, there is the opportunity to add both.
- *Bryan Broaddus *