The Cowboys probably have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. And even though they just lost two key components in Doug Free (retired) and Roland Leary (free agency), the offensive line is still loaded with talent, as a look at the draft pedigree of the Cowboys' offensive linemen shows:
Four former 1st rounders: (Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Jonathan Cooper)
One guy who should have been a 1st rounder (La'el Collins)
One 3rd rounder (Chaz Green)
One 4th rounder (Joe Looney)
One 5th rounder (Kadeem Edwards)
One 7th rounder (Ryan Seymour)
Two UDFAs (Emmett Cleary, Clay DeBord)
But a high draft pedigree doesn't automatically mean the Cowboys have one of the most expensive lines in the league, far from it.
In terms of cap dollars allocated to the 11 offensive linemen currently on the roster, the Cowboys currently rank 24th in the league with a cap hit of just $22.3 million. That means 23 teams are spending more cap dollars on their O-line than the Cowboys, and most of them are not getting anywhere near the return on investment the Cowboys are getting from their line.
It would be easy to dismiss these numbers by arguing that the Cowboys O-line costs as little as it does because it's full of rookies playing on their rookie contracts. But that's not entirely accurate. Of the 11 linemen currently on the roster, only three (Zack Martin, La'el Collins, Chaz Green) are still on their rookie contracts.
Sure, cap dollars may not be the most accurate representation of the total cost of the O-line, especially since the Cowboys have moved some of the costs of their O-line into future years via prorated signing bonuses. And yes, Zack Martin will soon sign one of the richest contracts for a guard in the NFL, and La'el Collins will also sign his second contract in 2018. But even if we look at the cash dollars spent on the 11 linemen, the Cowboys rank only 10th in the NFL with a cash spend of $31.8 million.
|Cash Rank||Team||2017 Cash Dollars||2017 Cap Dollars|
|1||Cleveland Browns||$57.1 million||$47.0 million|
|2||Philadelphia Eagles||$39.4 million||$45.1 million|
|3||Minnesota Vikings||$38.2 million||$27.5 million|
|4||Oakland Raiders||$37.7 million||$39.4 million|
|5||Detroit Lions||$37.6 million||$23.8 million|
|6||Carolina Panthers||$33.8 million||$29.8 million|
|7||New Orleans Saints||$33.5 million||$34.0 million|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||$32.6 million||$29.8 million|
|9||Los Angeles Chargers||$31.8 million||$27.8 million|
|10||Dallas Cowboys||$31.8 million||$22.3 million|
The numbers here are obviously a snapshot and will inevitably change as teams sign some of the remaining free agents, offer their players contract extensions, or sign their draft picks.
The 2016 Cowboys O-line was named the Offensive Line of the Year, and the 2017 unit has yet to show that it will be able to play at that level, but that doesn't change the fact that there are a lot of teams investing significantly more in their O-lines than the Cowboys - and getting a lot less in return.