The Dallas Cowboys have locked down their franchise quarterback for at least the next four seasons after he signed a four year, $160 million deal this week. Keeping Dak Prescott wearing the star is huge, and it brings about a positive feeling for what this offense can do with him behind center.
But his return won’t be the only sight for sore eyes for this Cowboys offense. The team suffered a series of unfortunate circumstances along the offensive line that started before the season even began. The first blow happened around this same time a year ago when we learned that Travis Frederick was retiring. The star center was a Pro Bowler over his last five years in the league, but then unexpectedly, he was no longer available to the team.
Bad health would take out another lineman before the season started as La’el Colllins’ hip problems required surgery and landed him on injured reserve a week before the regular season opener. Just like that, two starting linemen were gone.
Things continued to go south for the offensive line when Tyron Smith got hurt right out of the gate. After playing in the opener, Smith missed the next two games. He returned for Week 4, but that was his last game of the season. We have grown accustomed to Smith missing time as he missed exactly three games in each of the four prior season, but this time the hit was more severe as he only played in two games.
The icing on the (bad) cake came when their final stud offensive linemen would succumb to injury as well. Zack Martin got hurt not once, but twice, missing a total of six games. And due to injuries to the backup tackles and the struggling play of rookie UDFA Terence Steele, Martin even swung to the outside to play right tackle. Because of health and need, the All-Pro right guard only played eight games at his normal position.
When it was all said and done, the Cowboys top four offensive linemen over the last several years only played a combined total of 10 games at their normal positions.
It is hard to remember when this unit has been depleted this bad. It’s really amazing that the offense didn’t just collapse completely, especially after Prescott was lost for the year.
Looking back, things were difficult, but it should bring about a new sense of optimism going forward if the offensive line can get themselves healthy. Obviously, Frederick’s absence is permanent, but the Cowboys did draft Tyler Biadasz who showed a lot of promise in his four starts last season before he was placed on IR with a hamstring injury.
Smith, Martin, and Collins are all expected to be healthy this upcoming season, and when Stephen Jones spoke to the media at Dak’s new contract press conference, he brought up the health of the Cowboys offensive line...
“That’s the biggest question mark on the offensive side of the ball if we can just get our big horses out there from Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, to Zack Martin, then we have a chance to be very special on the offensive side of the ball.”
A healthy Prescott with a healthy assortment of talented offensive linemen is indeed something to get excited about. The damage that group could do is pretty substantial. That’s why fans should be excited about the possibility of landing one of the elite offensive tackles, Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater, with the 10th overall pick. Or even capitalize on the great tackle depth in this class later in the draft.
While adding reinforcements is great, the front office appears to have plenty of confidence in the health of their big horses as they restructured all three of them on Wednesday, freeing up $17 million of cap space. It wasn’t all that surprising to see them target one of these guys for a restructure, but it was a little unexpected for them to target all three. While there are no guarantees, it does provide a pretty strong vote of confidence from the front office regarding their availability for them to push off this money into the future.
The team feels good about their chances to return to full strength, and if that happens it could mean special things for this offense.