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Phillips: Once Again, There's No Such Thing As Too Much Depth In The NFL

FRISCO, Texas – We've been over this before.

We talked last summer about the secondary depth: How is first-round pick Byron Jones going to get on the field?

Then Orlando Scandrick tore his ACL and his MCL, lost for the entire 2015 season, and Jones played a vital role as a cornerback and safety his entire rookie year.

We've talked this year about the deep running back rotation: What happens when last year's leading rusher Darren McFadden returns from the Non-Football Injury list?

How soon we forget the Cowboys scrambled to cobble together depth behind McFadden after Lance Dunbar tore his ACL and patellar tendon and Joseph Randle got released midway through last season.

And now the latest example of "don't apologize for having too many good players": three games into this season, starting left guard La'el Collins has an injured big toe that could sideline him a while.

Why didn't the Cowboys trade Ronald Leary?

This is why.

The lesson, once again: there's no such thing as too much depth on an NFL roster.

It's a physical game. Injuries are inevitable, no matter how hard you train and how well you're prepared. If you can afford it, you stockpile as much depth as possible with worst-case-scenario in mind.

You don't deal from a position of strength.

Collins is "less likely" to have surgery on his injured toe, Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan, and the second-year guard apparently will see if he can fight through the pain. But the offensive line is fortunate they still have their safety net at guard.

Leary lost his starting job in 2015 and opted to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program, but the front office valued his experience for depth.

"We had trade opportunities with Ron," Jones said. "It has been a tough thing for Ron. I really admire him. It really needs to be noted how well he's dealt with his situation. We all knew that he could be a starter any place else. He could make a long-term contract any place else. But he's our player.

"For that very reason, when you've got five players in a unit, then logic tells you you're going to need help in terms of injury before a season is over. Sure enough, we got it with La'el."

Leary has started 35 games at left guard over four seasons with the Cowboys. The line didn't need much of an adjustment when he replaced Collins in the middle of last Sunday's primetime win over the Chicago Bears.

"Just like old times," Leary said.

A future draft pick couldn't have helped in that situation.

This isn't the '80s. The salary cap's a real thing. Every year teams turn over about one-third of their rosters. Depth isn't what it used to be.

The Cowboys jumped at the opportunity to sign Collins, a first-round prospect, when he went undrafted last year. But the idea of rushing to unload Leary never made much sense. Not when you're one snap away from saying, "Next Man Up."

The Cowboys know that better than anyone at the quarterback position. Tony Romo's still sidelined with a broken bone in his back – he has missed 15 games and counting since last season – and Kellen Moore is on injured reserve.

Why did the Cowboys draft a No. 3 quarterback with so many other needs on the roster?

No one's saying that now, either.

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