During an appearance on KRLD in Dallas, Stephen Jones talked about the way the Dallas Cowboys are approaching the issue of right tackle. For those who are convinced that Doug Free needs to go, there is good news and bad news.
The good news is that Jones confirmed that the team is looking at free agent Eric Winston as an option. While there is no indication that the team is prepared to enter into serious contract negotiations, the reliable veteran is under consideration. The big issue right now is that Winston is reported to be looking for a $3 to $4 million, one-year deal. The Cowboys are not exactly flush with cap space at the moment, and that kind of contract would eat up most of what they have. It could be offset by making Free a June 1 cut, but that extra space would not be available until then, so signing Winston now would handcuff the team if it feels it has other issues that still must be addressed.
Now the bad news. Jones made it clear that the team has not given up on Free.
"We certainly haven't dismissed Doug [Free]. We really felt like when we went to rotating him and Jermey Parnell that he really picked up his game in terms of the competition, not to mention the fact that I think he got some clarity as to what [offensive line coach] Bill Callahan was after.
It is fairly obvious now that the team is going to see what they come away from the draft with before they make any more decisions about right tackle, or the interior of the line, for that matter. After they know what kind of draftees they have to work with, then it will be time to sit down and decide if they need to bring in free agent help or not. It will also have a lot of bearing on what they do with Free, and whether they start seriously pressuring him about a pay cut.
The picture is exceptionally cloudy this year, with some mock drafts showing six offensive linemen (four tackles and two guards) gone before the Cowboys ever come on the clock at 18. This reflects both a strong class for the big guys up front and a weak one for quarterbacks. The two players Dallas fans are having fantasies about signing for the interior of the line, Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack, are both projected to be gone in almost every mock out there. This flies in the face of history, since two guards have never gone that high in the NFL draft. The argument for these projections is that the value of guards is climbing and both Cooper and Warmack are both seen as top ten or fifteen talents in this year's atypical class. Drafftek's position ranking reflects this. They show the top seven OG prospects all climbing relative to all positions in the most recent shuffle, some by more than 20 spots.
However, this is not necessarily the way the front offices around the league are thinking, and there are certainly some other players that are going to be in the mix. Most teams with need at the guard position also have other holes they need to fill, and there is a lot of talent available on the defensive line and at linebacker that may factor in. And there is a strong historic trend for quarterbacks to be overvalued.
There is also some depth at tackle, so Dallas could also get a second- or third-round player that would have to be part of the decision process regarding current players like Free. Clearly, things aren't clear as far as the Cowboys are concerned. All options are still on the table, and we will just have to be patient.
Isn't it time for the draft yet?