We’ve previewed a few swing tackle options as the Cowboys look to fortify depth behind their strongest unit. We haven’t really talked about the possibility of changing up the left guard spot. This year’s draft has quite a few good options if the Cowboys want to spend a pick, but should they choose to go the free agent route, Josh Kline is an option to re-signing Jonathan Cooper.
[In this series, come along as we peruse the long list of free agents and focus on players that could be of interest for the Cowboys. Some of these players may, of course, price themselves out of range. However, any time you feel like your team is close like Dallas most definitely does, why not be a little aggressive in the acquisitions department?]
OG Josh Kline, 6’3, 300 lbs, 28-years old - Tennessee Titans
Remember an offseason or so ago when DeMarco Murray gave high praise to the Titan’s offensive line by putting them right in the conversation with his former teammates in Dallas? Murray wasn’t too far off base as the Titans ranked third in rushing in 2016 and seventh in sacks allowed. Well, 2017 was a different story as they dropped to 15th in rushing and 13th in sacks allowed. For comparison, Dallas maintained the second-ranked rushing offense for a second consecutive year while only dropping from seventh to 10th in sacks allowed.
However, there will be plenty of changes made to the Titans organization as they just hired a new head coach, Mike Vrabel. The Titans will likely allow right guard Josh Kline the ability to test the market with other pressing needs. They may even go after an upgrade but Kline isn’t a slouch and maybe the Cowboys should lure him to man the left guard spot.
Kline played college football at Kent State where he got time all across the line and settled in at left guard. In his junior season, Kline made second-team All-MAC as he helped Kent State win the MAC East title. Kline signed on with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 NFL Draft.
In his rookie season, he appeared in seven games, bouncing from the practice squad to active roster before earning a start at left guard. He would sub-in at left guard due to Nate Solder being injured and Logan Mankins sliding to cover Solder at left tackle. By the end of his rookie year, Kline impressed enough to become the primary backup to both left and right guard.
In 2014, Mankins was traded to the Buccaneers which signaled more playing time for Kline but he underwhelmed in the preseason giving the Patriots second thoughts. Kline would start in four games at right guard and appeared in twelve others subbing in from time to time. Kline would play in the postseason wins over the Ravens and Colts due to more reshuffling. Strangely he wasn’t given a single snap in the Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks despite earning high praise for his AFC Championship performance a week prior. Only one other player besides Kline was active but didn’t play one down, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Finally, in 2015, Kline was given more opportunities as he started 13 of the 14 games he played in. Kline was often asked to rotate from left guard to right guard multiple times during multiple games. One series he would be playing at left guard then the next he would show up on the right side. Kline would play in 77.6% of the Patriots snaps in 2015. Following that season, Kline underwent shoulder surgery and was released one day before the start of the 2016 season.
He was claimed by the Titans and was activated two weeks later where he started the remaining 14 games at right guard. Behind Kline and his fellow linemen, Murray rushed for nearly 1,300 yards as the Titans averaged over 130 yards per game on the ground. Kline started all 16 games for the Titans this past season, but as previously mentioned, Tennessee regressed in both rushing production and pass protection. Kline started both postseason games for the Titans this season as well.
Kline’s not the most athletic guard but his style of play is similar to former Cowboys guard Ronald Leary. He’s got a finishing mentality though he’s not quite the mauler Leary was. Kline is a very solid run blocker, Murray went on a three-game tear in 2016 primarily running behind the right guard. Kline would be an affordable option for the Cowboys as he’s on a line that consists of more star power like Taylor Lewan, Jack Conklin, and Ben Jones. Kline’s last extension was worth about $3.5 million and was laced with incentives. Though his market could increase, it’s hard to see it ballooning too much.
The Cowboys are going to let Jonathan Cooper test the market even though he was their best option for left guard this season. Cooper hasn’t lived up to the billing that got him drafted by the Cardinals in the first round. Cooper is serviceable but they should consider a more consistent option. Though the Titans’ line wasn’t nearly as good this season, Kline would still be a more consistent player for the Cowboys. If the price is right, maybe Kline could help Dallas regain their “best line in football” tag.