(Editor's Note: This is the seventh of an 11-part series analyzing every position on the Cowboys roster, providing a quick look back before addressing the needs of each spot on the field and how it can be improved heading into the 2014 season. Today we examine the offensive tackles.)
Pressing Matters:This is a position that is more about financial concerns than personnel. Tyron Smith is going to his first Pro Bowl, which is certainly what the Cowboys envisioned when they drafted him No. 9 overall in 2011. But because he was taken in the season of the lockout with new NFLPA rules in place, Smith didn't get the typical five-year contract for a first-rounder. His four-year deal is now up after 2014 and the Cowboys will likely work on a new contract for him, maybe even this offseason if it can help out their cap situation. As for the right side, the Cowboys might want to figure that out, too. Doug Free cut his salary in half but played much better in 2013, and he's also entering the final year of his contract.
2013 Evaluation: The Cowboys got major improvement from both tackle spots this past season. The club struggled on both ends last year, especially with penalties. Not only were the penalties reduced but their play increased mightily. The Cowboys improved in the running game and Smith was a big reason for that. Some of the better defensive ends he faced, such as Robert Quinn, Jason Pierre-Paul and Brian Orakpo were held in check.
Need More From … This one is hard considering how well both Smith and Free played in 2013. Free bounced back nicely and Smith went to the Pro Bowl. And then with the backups, it's hard to say Jermey Parnell needs to give you more because he never played and the Cowboys don't want him to. Darrion Weems was never active, but obviously the Cowboys are high on him, at least enough to keep him around next year. [embedded_ad]
Upgrades Needed:With Free's contract nearing the end, the Cowboys could stand to upgrade the position with a young tackle through the draft. It likely won't be an early pick considering Dallas doesn't need to fill that spot right away. But getting young tackles is always a priority and if one falls in their lap on draft weekend, the Cowboys won't shy away.
By The Numbers:
- Smith became the first Cowboys offensive tackle to make the Pro Bowl since Flozell Adams in 2008.
- In 2012, Free led the NFL in penalties assessed with 15, but he cut that number down to eight this past year. Smith went from 11 to seven this season as well.
Scout's Eye: Smith, Free Spurred The Progress On OLine
Both Smith and Free came out of the blocks and were outstanding. Smith was especially good opening night against Jason Pierre-Paul, and he continued to build on that to the point that he was selected to his first Pro Bowl after the 2013 season. (Read more here)