FRISCO, Texas – Like it does for so many other players across the NFL, Ron Leary's wait begins now.
On Sunday morning, Leary was the starting left guard for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs, with aspirations of reaching the Super Bowl. Now, he's an unrestricted free agent with an uncertain future.
"Obviously, the season didn't end the way we wanted it to end," Leary said Monday. "I think we had a great season as a team, as an O-Line – individuals, we all had good seasons. But the ultimate goal is to win a championship, and we fell short of that."
Disappointing as the Cowboys' playoff exit might be, few members of this roster benefitted from the 2016 season more than Leary. It feels like ancient history at this point, but the veteran guard was stuck on the bench when he reported to training camp. He even went as far as to request a trade, knowing he was unlikely to play much behind La'el Collins.
But injury creates opportunity, as Cowboys coach Jason Garrett likes to say. Collins went to the injured reserve with a toe injury after the third game of the season, and Leary stepped in and reminded people of his own ability.
"I think that was big, because not playing last year, I think some people kind of forgot," Leary said. "I'm glad I was able to remind people that I can play ball."
It's been a long wait for Leary, who was originally undrafted in 2012, to get to this point. But after a successful season, he should have plenty of offers for his services.
"It's exciting. It's exciting being able to play ball again. Going into the season, I didn't think I was going to be playing at all," he said. "As far as free agency, that's one thing that I'm going to let it play itself out, see how things work out."
It will be interesting to see just how it plays out. The Cowboys have Collins returning from injury, and they'd undoubtedly like to offer All-Pro Zack Martin a contract extension. It doesn't seem likely they'll be able to afford Leary, as well. But those are all conversations for later in the offseason.
"I've just got to look at all the business sides of it and look at it from every aspect and see what's the best fit for me," Leary said.
While he waits for the next step, Leary repeated his disappointment in the way the season ended. But he said he was glad for the opportunity to be part of it.
"Hopefully they see that I just left it all out there for them. I love the group that we have, the O-Line group, this team. This is one of the closest teams I've ever been on," he said. "Hopefully they just see that I left it all out there and gave it my all every day. Like I said, we just fell short."