And then there were two. The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams are the last two teams standing and only one of them will have the honor of hoisting the ever elusive, and much desired, Lombardi Trophy. The other 30 teams that make up the NFL are all officially in offseason mode, including the Dallas Cowboys.
Like the rest of the league, the Cowboys have a lot of work to do between now and the start of the 2022 season. The self-evaluation process likely starts first before they try to address roster needs in both free agency and the draft. All in all, it’s a long and never-ending process, but one that is all-important for the success or failure of each season.
As far as the offseason is concerned, upgrading or reconfiguring the offensive line should be near the top of their to-do list. Better play and health would fix a lot of the issues with the Cowboys starting five, but finding an upgrade to replace Connor Williams at left guard wouldn’t be a bad idea either. But, where do they find such a replacement?
From 2015 to 2017, James Daniels started 37 games at center in his three-year career for the Iowa Hawkeyes. He decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft where he was selected 39th overall in the second round by the Chicago Bears.
In his four years with the Chicago Bears, Daniels proved his versatility by playing both left and right guard as well as center. He appeared in 54 games and started 48 of those contests. His development was stunted a little bit having to continually change positions, but he finally had a breakout season of sorts in 2021.
In 2021, Daniels was the 20th-ranked guard according to PFF with a grade of 71.8. He played in all 17 games and earned a career-high 72.4 run-blocking grade and an above average pass-blocking grade of 69.3.
What makes Daniels so intriguing for the Cowboys as his age, versatility, and experience. He will be just 24 years old in Week 1 of the 2022 season and has played all three interior offensive line positions during his time in Chicago. His youth, position flex, and experience would be a much welcomed addition to the Cowboys interior OL.
Daniels is still full of untapped potential. He could be a plug-and-play starter for the Cowboys at left guard, which would be the best case scenario, or push Tyler Biadasz for the starting job at center. Either way, his position flex could prove to be invaluable, much like Joe Looney provided during his time in Dallas.
In the end though, we all know it comes down to money. According to Spotrac, James Daniels’ current market value is $7.3 million annually. That means the Dallas Cowboys would have to shell out a four-year deal for approximately $29.5 million. That could be money well spent for a player can start at any of the interior o-line positions.