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What's Next? Cowboys' interior OL nearly solid


(Editor's note: The content provided is based on opinions and/or perspective of the editorial staff and not the Cowboys football staff or organization.)

FRISCO, TX — It's where many, if not every, NFL game is won or lost. The interior of an offensive line has to be the strongest point of attack for any team, and the Dallas Cowboys know this all too well, which is why they've often invested the right resources in making sure theirs is as impactful as possible — Zack Martin leading that charge for a long while now.

But, entering the 2024 season, are they as comfortable as they should be between their edges?

The short answer is, yes, they're in a much better position than they were this time last year, but let's get into the nuts and bolts of it all.

Past: In the previous edition of 'What's Next?', I touched on where the Cowboys truly began their recent journey at offensive tackle, and that included mentioning La'el Collins — the former starting right tackle who was supplanted in 2022 by Terence Steele. But in mentioning Collins, I'd be remiss to not recall his trajectory to that role, because it began at left guard.

You can bet Ronald Leary remembers, seeing as it was Leary who manned the role between Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith, and effectively under injury cleared the path for the Cowboys to give an undrafted Collins his shot; and he'd ultimately replace Leary as starting left guard, later being moved to RT following the retirement of Doug Free.

And I'm sure you remember Frederick, a Hall of Fame talent at center who retired in 2020 due to his ongoing battle with Guillain–Barré syndrome — an incomparable player (and human being) who first returned in 2019 en route to landing his fifth and final Pro Bowl nod.

The trio of Leary/Collins, Frederick and Zack Martin was devastating to opposing defensive lines, and it's something the Cowboys have been trying to get back to for years now, with Martin being the only remaining superstar from that lineup.

Oh, and Collins made his return to the Cowboys in 2023, by the way.


Present: Collins made it known following his most recent signing that he'll play wherever the Cowboys ask him to, and it's not as if he's unaccustomed to sliding back to the role of guard if it all comes to that. It shouldn't, however, given the emergence of both T.J. Bass and Brock Hoffman as young, capable interior linemen who have both shown an ability to step in and be impactful as a starter when their number is called.

One look at the film from Bass, especially, and Hoffman in 2023 and you'll find immediate evidence as to why the Cowboys — who entered last year's training camp with a myriad of questions surrounding the depth of their interior offensive line — are now flush with talent in that role.

Better still is the fact Bass was a rookie last season and Hoffman was only in Year 2 of his young NFL career, meaning there are years of tread remaining on their still-new tires. And the same can be said of Asim Richards in that regard, though it's unclear what position the former UNC standout will be relegated to in 2024.

And then there's former Pro Bowl center Tyler Biadasz, who is set to hit free agency in March.

Future: If Biadasz does not agree to a new deal by mid-March, he'll be an unrestricted free agent and open up a massive void in the middle of the offensive line, because it's undetermined if Hoffman (who can and has played center in his football past) is ready for what comes with doing so in front of Dak Prescott and in-between Tyler Smith and Zack Martin.

That said, being sandwiched between such elite talent should shorten his learning curve, though I'm not sure the Cowboys are comfortable parting ways with Biadasz quite yet — one-third of the most reliable part of their O-line.

The near future is bright though, all things considered, assuming perennial All-Pro and future first-ballot Hall of Fame right guard Zack Martin is in uniform for another few years; though it is also time to at least begin the uncomfortable conversation regarding what the post-Martin era would look like.

After all, he'll be 34 years old before the next season concludes, and the fact he's been Mr. Durable for nearly the entirety of his career also means there's a lot of wear on his body.

Like I said, it's an unpleasant conversation to broach, but it needs to be considered; but that also makes the emergence of Bass and Hoffman that much more valuable in 2024 and beyond.

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