FRISCO, Texas – Last week, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones said the team has some "decisions to make" regarding offensive tackle Terence Steele.
But unlike the 20 other unrestricted free agents, the decision on Steele won't be whether to keep him, but which tender to issue to the restricted free agent.
The best news for the Cowboys is that his torn ACL injury he suffered early in December likely won't be a factor in the decision to bring him back.
Jones was rather optimistic earlier this week when he said Steele was "ahead of schedule" in his rehab work and fully expects him to participate in training camp in July.
Before then, a contract has to be signed, either a one-year tender or a long-term deal.
Officially, the Cowboys won't have to make the move until March 15, the first day of the new league year. According to multiple reports, the Cowboys are leaning on giving Steele a second-round tender, which would pay him around $4.3 million for the 2023 season. Under that scenario, Steele would play for one season and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season unless a long-term deal is reached.
Restricted free agents can get either the first-round tender, second-round tender, or right-of-first-refusal tender. Should the Cowboys decide to place the first-round tender on Steele, it would cost them $6.05 million, but would likely net them a first-rounder if another team signs Steele to an offer sheet and the Cowboys chose not to match.
Since Steele was undrafted in 2020, the right-of-first-refusal tender would not afford the Cowboys any draft-pick compensation.
Jones said the Cowboys have "good problems to have" regarding the tackle position with Steele returning, plus Tyron Smith and Tyler Smith both under contract.
Tyron Smith is expected to count $17 million on the cap but Jones said the Cowboys are "comfortable" with that price tag and mentioned the importance of having depth at the tackle position.