Free agency and the NFL draft have concluded and the Cowboys are looking at some form of their final 53-man roster. With all of the free agency losses, Dallas clearly made defense a priority in the draft which has lessened the blow. Now that the draft has concluded and Dallas is likely not going to make any major additional acquisitions, let's take a look at the three biggest losses from the offseason.
Doug Free spent ten quiet years on the offensive line where he learned from, and taught many of, the guards and tackles the Cowboys have featured over the last fifteen years. He produced a lot of quality play, but he was constantly overshadowed by the young guns, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick. He was a solid leader in film sessions and was akin to Jason Witten in terms of team-wide respect and character. His retirement leaves the right tackle spot open but more importantly, it forces the aforementioned trio to pick up the leadership role and provide technique advice and discipline to the remaining linemen.
While the Cowboys hit multiple jackpots in revamping their secondary, losing a leader in Barry Church hurts Dallas as they will now rely on Byron Jones to lead the secondary. Church's calmness in calling audibles and his experience against Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins and the Eagles scheme will be missed next year, regardless of how talented his replacements are. While Dallas has relied on many starters at cornerback and safety over the last few years related to injuries or inconsistent play, Barry Church continued to provide a dose of steadiness. At this point, the only certainty across the secondary is Byron Jones at free safety.
This one is a double whammy. Terrell McClain started balling out midway through last season and was one of the better defensive linemen on the team. He departed to a division rival, Washington, early in the free agency period. During the draft, Dallas improved their pass rush with Taco Charlton but their interior defensive line could use some pop. Maliek Collins showed talent last year and he will lead this position group, but I have less confidence in Cedric Thornton and recent acquisition Stephen Paea. Drafting a pair of defensive tackles in the seventh round indicates either the front office is more comfortable at defensive tackle than I am, or that they want options just in case.
It is clear that you win and lose games in the trenches and 2017 should be no different. Dallas must persevere through these losses and continue to own the offensive line battle and compete more effectively along the defensive line. Will new blood in Charles Tapper and Taco Charlton and rising star David Irving be enough to make the defensive line a force? Probably. Will the infusion of young talent be enough to put together a formidable secondary? Hopefully.
Which former Cowboy will Dallas miss the most?