IRVING, Texas – From the very get-go, it seemed as though Jermey Parnell was going to be just fine.
After all, on his first snap replacing an injured Doug Free in Seattle last season, he helped pave the way for a 20-yard, go-ahead touchdown run by DeMarco Murray. Parnell would go on to start the next three games while Free recovered from a foot injury. A month later, when Free hurt his ankle, Parnell stepped in for the final five games of the season.
He might not have been a dominating force, but Parnell's ability to handle the situation – and the Cowboys' ability to account for the injury – wasn't lost on owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
"Very few teams got three left tackles they can go to war with, plus having two right tackles and that combination of things," Jones said last week at the NFL's annual meetings. "If you really looked at it was probably one of our greatest luxuries in my 25 years."
Jones was referring to three left tackles in the sense that both Parnell and Free could potentially play on the left side – though there's not much need, with team cornerstone Tyron Smith manning the left tackle spot since 2012.
"I bet there is not another NFL team that could do about any kind of competing they want to with three different guys at left tackle," Jones said.
Of course, the Cowboys won't be able to any longer. Parnell leveraged his successful stint as a starter into a five-year, $32 million contract with Jacksonville less than one week after the Cowboys re-signed Free to a three-year, $15 million deal.
That leaves the starting tackle situation solidified in Dallas for the foreseeable future, with Free signed through 2017 and Smith under contract for literally a decade. Parnell has proven the importance of a solid swing tackle, though, and the Cowboys now have to worry about finding his replacement.
The Cowboys re-signed Darrion Weems, who spent the 2014 season on injured reserve, at the start of the offseason. They also still have Donald Hawkins, and they could bring back veteran reserve Tony Hills.
Jones acknowledged those possibilities, while also pointing out the possibility of drafting a tackle next month.
"There is a possibility he is on the roster. But we would draft one -- or if we see a free agent that is a development guy," he said.
It's hard to imagine the Cowboys spending the No. 27 pick on a tackle, given the solid status of their starters. Then again, guard wasn't exactly a top need last spring, when Dallas drafted Zack Martin 16th overall despite solid seasons from Ronald Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Intriguing prospects like La'el Collins, D.J. Humphries and T.J. Clemmings are all possibilities at the end of the first round. The Cowboys could also tend to that position with a later pick. Much like the other-oft discussed positions in this draft, Jones said nothing is off the table.
"I would not rule out an offensive lineman under some circumstances,"