A few of the so-called "experts" have put together some mock drafts that have Dallas taking an offensive lineman in the first round of this year's draft. At first I was incredulous, especially seeing that these mocks came well after the Cowboys had re-signed Flozell Adams. The Cowboys will be fielding the same starting offensive lineman two years in a row for the first time in a long while this year. The Cowboys also have three Pro Bowl linemen and it is arguable that Marc Columbo could have gone as well. Yet for some reason this scenario has been picking away at my football subconscious until I cannot ignore it any longer. Might the Cowboys draft an offensive lineman in the first round? Well, I think they could. Now before everyone goes and starts breaking out the straight jackets for me, there are some sound arguments to support this crazed notion.
The draft could just work out that way. If the Cowboys end up signing Adam Jones, which is becoming a distinct possibility, then the overwhelming need to rush out and grab a corner with the #22 pick may no longer exist. If Jones is a Cowboy, Dallas would only need to look for depth at corner and could wait until the second round to do so. Dallas also is in need of a running back to work behind Marion Barber. While some mock drafts have the Cowboys waiting until #28 to pick a RB, if Jonathan Stewart falls to #22 the Cowboys would be more than happy to scoop him up in a heartbeat. So now the Cowboys have picked a running back and would not need to draft a 3rd down corner in the first round. I will also contend that the Cowboys will not draft a receiver in the first round. The team is confident in the receiving corps they have now and it just does not seem they will go for one early in the draft. So what to do with the #28 pick?
The Cowboys will go for the best player available or trade the pick away, depending on who exactly is the BPA. Some mocks have Branden Albert sitting there as a late round draft choice and if he is still there, he might be one the Cowboys would draft. Albert is a natural guard but also has the ability to play right tackle. Albert would be a safe pick and one who the Cowboys could use in the future as a starting guard or offensive tackle. I'm sure some of you are still thinking I'm crazy, saying to yourself that the Cowboys already have good to great tackles and guards. That brings me to the next point:
Marc Columbo may not be a Dallas Cowboy in 2009. Columbo was signed to a two year deal last offseason and will become a free agent following the 2008 season. There are no guarantees that he returns. Dallas has Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis all locked into long term contracts with Kyle Kosier having three years remaining on his. Terence Newman, Terrell Owens and Demarcus Ware will also be looking for new contracts, as well as tendered free agents Marion Barber and Cris Canty and franchised safety Ken Hamlin. There will be just too many mouths looking for a payday and someone will be the odd man out. With all that money already locked into the offensive line, Columbo might be the man the Cowboys let go. If that happens, are there any backups on the current roster the Cowboys are sure can step in and take over at tackle? Right now, I would say that answer is no.
Let's say the Cowboys were 100% percent confident in their young offensive linemen; re-signing Flozell Adams would not have been such a high priority. Adams is one of the leagues best left tackles but he is also getting older. The Cowboys could easily have let him go and counted on one of the backups to step in; this would have freed up cap space and possibly allowes the Cowboys to have made a play for some of the free agents they passed on. Yet the Cowboys worked overtime to get a deal done and that could be a tell on just how they feel about the backups. Doug Free and James Marten have only had a year to develop as NFL players and it typically takes a few years for offensive lineman to reach their full potential. Yet if the Cowboys were to let Columbo go next year, is Doug Free, James Marten or Pat McQuistan able to step up in his place? McQuistan is more of a guard although he has played tackles in spot relief duty. Free and Marten are still unknowns.
If the Cowboys wanted to take the safe route and play for the future, drafting an offensive lineman in the first round is a safe move to make if one is there at the #28 pick. Granted, many pieces would have to fall into place for this scenario to work out perfectly, but the draft is never an exact science. Jerry Jones has never drafted an offensive lineman in the first round however, and hasn't drafted one in the second round since 2004. If certain things happen the Cowboys might be looking at the possibility of drafting an offensive lineman in the first round. Don't be surprised if it happens.