Last year, the Cowboys signed six offensive linemen (Jeff Adams, Ronald Leary, Levy Adcock, Taylor Dever, Harland Gunn and Tyrone Novikoff) to UDFA contracts shortly after the draft. Of those six guys, only OG Ronald Leary remains on the Cowboys' roster.
This year, the Cowboys didn't sign a single UDFA offensive lineman after the draft. Surely this is a sign of the impending apocalypse, no?
Not so fast. While this series of posts (Tom did the defensive line version earlier) is supposed to highlight the UDFAs the Cowboys brought in recently, not signing a single UDFA doesn't mean they didn't bring in any OL bodies.
This year, the Cowboys decided not to wait until after the draft to bring in their OL prospects. Instead, they decided to give themselves (and the linemen they did bring in) a head start: OT Darrion Weems was signed in early December, OT Aderious Simmons and OG Ray Dominguez were both signed in the first week of January and OG Charlie Bryant was signed in early February. We won't know until later this year whether that early-signing strategy promises better results, but if nothing else, those four linemen will have had a few more months with the Cowboys to prepare themselves for training camp competition.
In 2012 and 2011, the Cowboys opened the season with nine offensive linemen on their roster, and 10 in the two seasons before that. Pending the status of Doug Free and a potential (though low-probability) signing of a free agent right tackle, here's the Cowboys' 2013 depth chart as it stands today (per ourlads.com):
|POS||Starter||Backup||Third String||Fourth String|
|LT||Tyron Smith||Darrion Weems||Aderious Simmons|
|LG||Nate Livings||Ronald Leary||Charlie Bryant|
|OC||Travis Frederick||Phil Costa||Ryan Cook||Kevin Kowalski|
||David Arkin||Ray Dominguez|
|RT||Doug Free||Jermey Parnell|
Garrett loves competition at every position, and the O-line is no different. Despite not having brought in any UDFAs after the draft, the Cowboys have 15 offensive linemen who'll challenge for nine or ten roster spots this year.
Obviously, the situation on the offensive line is very fluid at the moment. While the Cowboys have every intention of playing Frederick at center, that doesn't mean it will necessarily happen this year. It's conceivable that Costa could retain the center spot, and that Frederick could move to right guard for a season or two. And there would be a Cowboys precedent for that:
The Cowboys drafted Flozell Adams in 1998 as their left tackle of the future, and added Andre Gurode four years later. Gurode started his first three years at guard before eventually moving to center (like Frederick, he had played both guard and center in college). There are only two years between Smith and Frederick, but I was struck by the parallels. Coincidentally, Adams and Gurode are also the last two linemen drafted with high picks that actually worked out for the Cowboys.
Another factor to consider is that while Killer Kowalski is technically a center and therefore penciled in as the fourth center, he has the versatility to play all three interior line spots for the Cowboys, and he could easily be the backup at either guard spot.
With the fluid overall situation of the line in mind, let's now look at the four offensive linemen the Cowboys brought in earlier in the year:
||Oregon||6-5||320||5.35||26||- -||27.5||- -||- -|
|OT||Aderious Simmons||Arizona State||6-7||310||5.40||26||7'1"||25.5||4.96||7.98|
Darrion Weems, OT, Oregon
Weems is originally from New Orleans, but he and his family were forced to move due to Hurricane Katrina and relocated to California. Despite the move, Weems finished at the top of his class and was one of the best players in the state his senior year in HS.
Weems played college ball at Oregon, where he appeared in 41 games (22 starts) during his four seasons and was considered on of the leaders of the team. As a senior in 2011, he started 14 games and was part of an offensive unit that ranked third in the nation in scoring, fifth in rushing and sixth in total offense. As a junior, Weems played in 11 games, including seven starts, and helped pave the way for the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing offense and the nation’s top running back in LaMichael James.
Weems signed as an undrafted free agent with the Minnesota Vikings on May 4, 2012. He was released by the Vikings just before the start of training camp on July 24, 2012 and signing with the New England Patriots three days later. He was released by the Patriots during final roster cuts on August 31, 2012 and was picked up by the Indianapolis Colts on September 3, 2012 for their practice squad. He was released on September 18 and joined the Broncos' practice squad on October 2, 2012, where he remained until the Cowboys signed him off Denver's practice squad on December 5, 2012.
Brian Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com has a favorable opinion of Weems:
A player to keep an eye on when this team goes to camp next summer is Darrion Weems who they took off Denver’s practice squad. I studied him when he was with the Patriots this past year and I have to say that I was impressed with his movement and ability. Remember the Cowboys took Parnell off the Saints practice squad and developed his game as well. Weems seems to have those same kind of traits but plays with more power than Parnell did initially. Any time you can poach an offensive linemen off a team and he develops, it’s like stealing for scouts.
Weems will compete for a backup tackle spot this season as he develops further, and could perhaps push for a starting spot next season.
Aderious Simmons, OT, Arizona State
The 6-7, 310-pound Simmons is the tallest player on the Cowboys roster but he'll need to do more than stand tall to make the roster. Like Weems, Simmons is originally from New Orleans and was displaced after Katrina.
Simmons took a circuitous route to organized football. He was a basketball player in high school, and only started playing football in 2008 at Pasadena (Calif.) City College. A year later, he moved on to another Junior College, El Camino College in Torrance, where he stayed for two years. That's where an Arizona State assistant coach noticed him and he was eventually offered an athletic scholarship at the Pac-12 university. In two years with the Sun Devils he played in 13 games and started nine.
The Saints signed him as an UDFA in April 2012 and he spent the entire training camp with New Orleans but was released with final roster cuts at the end of August.
Ray Dominguez, OG, Arkansas
Dominguez played college football at Arkansas, where he was a four-year letterman for the Razorbacks. He appeared in 41 games with 33 starts, including a streak of 18 straight starts to end his college career. Dominguez started all 13 contests at LT as a senior in 2011 for an Arkansas offense that broke 24 single-game or single-season school records.
He joined the Packers as an UDFA in the summer of 2011, made the practice squad and was called up to the 53-man roster by mid-season, but did not play a down of NFL football. He was cut by the Packers during final roster cuts in August 2012 and signed to the Panthers practice squad in October 2012, from where he was signed by the Cowboys in January 2013 to a futures contract.
Charles Bryant, OG, Memphis
Charlie Bryant joined the Chargers in 2011 as a 6-6, 320-pound defensive tackle out of Memphis, where he was a teammate of Cowboys guard Ronald Leary. Bryant played defensive tackle in college, but was moved from defensive lineman to offensive lineman six games into his senior season. He spent his first training camp with the Chargers as a defensive tackle before they too moved him to offensive tackle and signed him to their practice squad. Bryant has never played in a regular season game NFL game. The Cowboys signed him as a guard and are hoping for some positional versatility.