One of the most peculiar features of this offseason has been the lack of a free agency period. Usually, free agency takes place in early March, so the Super Bowl dusk is followed hard upon by a free agency dawn. One of the benefits of this schedule is that, at the conclusion of the draft, we have a very clear idea of who will be on the Cowboys 80-man training camp roster--and can thus begin delicious speculation about who will survive training camp well in advance of camp itself.
This year, of course, all of this is changed. Although the names of potential free agent acquisitions have been floating around the blogosphere--with Cullen Jenkins, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Michael Huff getting the most attention in Cowboyland--we have very little idea which players will be available, due to the uncertainty surrounding the collective bargaining act. A player like Doug Free, with four years of service, may fall under several different categories, depending on how the labor agreement plays out--and there are many other players in a similar position. To parse out what will happen to such players is to engage in idle speculation.
Some slightly less idle speculation after the jump...
One player who we can talk about with greater certainty is Free's linemate, Kyle Kosier. Given his years of service and the fact that his contract expired at the end of the 2010 season, there is no doubt about Kosier's status: he is an unrestricted free agent, available to sell his services to the highest bidder. For us, the burning question is: will that team be the Cowboys? Yesterday, the mothership published a story asking that very question.
Kosier presents an interesting case study in the dilemmas faced by NFL general managers. Since coming to Dallas from the Lions in 2006 as an unsung and largely unremarked-upon free agent pickup, Kosier has been the steadiest, if not the most dominant, member of Dallas' offensive line. As the article points out, the Cowboys have gone 44-22 in the games he has started and 6-10 in the games he has missed. Moreover, they made the playoffs in all three seasons in which he started a full 16 games and missed them in the two years in which missed games due to injury.
Moreover, Kosier has long been one of, if not the, most nimble guys on an increasingly lumbering offensive line. In 2010, the O-line was a bit schizophrenic, with good foot athletes on the left side in Kosier and Free and slow-footed mashers Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo on the right. Given the skillsets of the three offensive linemen the Cowboys drafted in April--all are nimble guys in the 300 pound range--its clear that Jason Garret & Co. want to transition to an O-line made up of quicker, more athletic players.
If Dallas resigns Kosier, next year's starting five will likely be Free, Kosier, Andre Gurode, Davis and Tyron Smith. If fourth-round pick David Arkin flashes early, he could conceivably unseat one of the candidates at guard. But Arkin is from a small school (Missouri State) and, with the labor situation, is missing out on critical catch-up time. Can the Dallas braintrust count on him to seize a starting spot in 2011? I can't imagine so...
If the Cowboys don't resign Kosier, the most likely candidate at left guard is the ponderous Montrae Holland. With Holland in the lineup, the Dallas O-line would feature a different brand of schizophrenia: agile tackles and big-bodied, slow-footed interior linemen. At least this is more balanced...but such a lineup would have me fearing for Tony Romo's safety; I suspect opposing defensive coordinators would send a lot of interior blitzers and Holland, Gurode and Davis would struggle mightily to pick them up.
If the Cowboys are going to run the kind of offense that I think they do, they'll need Kosier to make it happen. And here's the rub: he's 33 years old. How much can they invest in an aging player with an injury history? How many years will they be willing to offer? Which bullet will they bite: a multi-year contract almost certain to outlast Kosier's tenure in Dallas, or to go with Arkin or Holland at left guard and hope Tony Romo makes it through the year unscathed?
Okay BTB nation, here's your chance to play Jerry Jones for a day. You see, being the Cowboys GM isn't all about new stadiums, big screens and title fights. Every once in a while, a humdinger of a football decision comes your way. So: what would you do?