We’ll be continuing our offseason target candidate series today with the offensive guard position. On Thursday, we discussed the wide receiver position.
Much of the success the Dallas Cowboys had in the playoff years of 2014 and 2016 came from the foundation of the offensive line. In 2016, the offensive line consisted of three All-Pro players in left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and right guard Zack Martin. The other two players on the line were Ronald Leary and Doug Free, two guys who weren’t too shabby themselves.
Dallas had a ton of success that year, going 13-3 until losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Green Bay Packers. Fast forward to the offseason, the Cowboys lost Leary to free agency and Free to retirement. In 2017, the offense failed for a variety of reasons, but the offensive line definitely took a step back.
New additions Jonathan Cooper (left guard) and La’el Collins (right tackle) had bright spots in 2017. But if the Cowboys want to add more consistency upfront on the offensive line, there may be a lot to gain for the Cowboys by adding a guard early in the draft, or picking up a veteran in free agency.
In 2014, the Cowboys selected Martin with the 16th overall pick in the draft. Martin has been a first-team All-Pro player three out of his four seasons, barely missing the status in 2015 when he was second-team All-Pro.
Given how teams may not value the guard position as much as the Cowboys do, there is also a chance that Dallas could even trade back and still target the guard position while adding another draft pick in the process. Let’s take a look at some targets in both the draft and in free agency who could benefit the Cowboys.
With the Cowboys hiring Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander to the same position, there is a chance that Alexander could bring Smith with him. After all, Smith is a plus run-blocker who has experience in Alexander’s scheme. Smith was a tackle for most of his career, but the Bengals gave him some time as a guard this past offseason.
It has been a pretty wild NFL career for Smith. Playing college football at Alabama, Smith was a prospect who garnered a lot of attention. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2009 draft and has really never lived up to the status.
He has received criticism for his attitude, but if he can keep his head on straight, he can succeed, especially next to the quality of lineman the Cowboys have on their roster. With his position flexibility, Smith can also be the team’s swing tackle.
Tennessee has invested a lot of money in their offensive line. While the Titans would love to re-sign Kline, they just might not have the budget to do so with contracts of younger players coming off the books soon.
At age 28, Kline has quietly been one of the better guards in football in recent years. He’s a smaller guard at 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, but he has played in multiple NFL offenses and he could gel instantly in between Smith and Frederick
Remember Evan Dietrich-Smith? Well, he is now Evan Smith. The long-time Green Bay Packer came over to Tampa Bay at age 27. After four years in Tampa, Smith has become somewhat forgotten about.
However, he has the ability to play guard and center. He’d be a nice plug-and-play player in the offensive line and he could even be a depth piece as well if Jonathan Cooper decides to re-sign in Dallas.
I have mentioned Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn before, so for the sake of providing new names, I am going to go with another guard who is high on everyone’s list... a guy who has spent time with certain Cowboys offensive lineman already.
Don’t let Hernandez’s small-school status fool you. He’s a unique athlete who can move extremely well at 6-foot-2, 350 pounds. He’s a guy who moves laterally very well, making a case for him to be a great pulling guard in the NFL. Hernandez would provide an immediate upgrade at the guard position.
A three-year contributor who left early to explore his NFL potential, Daniels comes from a school who produces quality offensive lineman. At Iowa, Daniels excelled because of his quickness in space and his ability to clear linebackers away from running back Akrum Wadley. He has center/guard positional flexibility as well.
With experience at right tackle, left guard, and center, Welsh provides that element of versatility on the offensive line that will intrigue the Cowboys. He may be a little undersized at 6-3, 295 pounds, but he is one of the quicker interior offensive lineman in the draft.
After participating in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Welsh impressed NFL evaluators, helping his draft stock in the progress. On top of being a team leader at Iowa (teammates with Daniels), Welsh has an unbelievable story to tell. He is a guy that will find success in the NFL within the right niche.
Which offensive guards do you want to see on the Cowboys in 2018?