Once NFL free agency begins next month, the first steps of forging this year’s iteration of the Dallas Cowboys will begin. The Cowboys have several free-agent decisions to make their own players, including Dalton Schultz and Tony Pollard. However, offensive line turnover hasn’t gotten much mention when it should. Connor McGovern, Jason Peters, and Terence Steele are set to be free agents, although Steele is a restricted free agent.
Plus, one must factor in the uncertainty of longtime starting offensive lineman Tyron Smith. Smith missed a large chunk of the season after suffering a hamstring injury in training camp. Smith carries a cap charge of $13M in base salary, which could push the team to part ways with the future Hall of Famer.
It almost goes without saying, the Cowboys will have to address the offensive line one way or another. Namely, left guard. The Cowboys were fortunate to have had a surplus of players who were versatile enough to play left guard if asked to. Peters, McGovern, and Tyler Smith all took snaps at left guard this past season. That might not be the case this year.
The matter of how the team is going to address their situation at left guard is a separate topic in and of itself. The Cowboys aren’t big spenders regarding free agency and will not reset the market to acquire a player at any position, much less offensive line. Plus, even though Tyler Smith played fairly well at left guard, he’s almost a lock to be the team’s present and future at left tackle, and Jason Peters ability to play regularly, even if he is re-signed, is in serious doubt.
This brings Justin McCray into the conversation. McCray, a ten-year NFL veteran, has ties to the current coaching staff in Dallas. After earning a spot on the Green Bay Packers in 2017, McCray started eight games at right tackle under Mike McCarthy and assistant offensive line coach Jeff Blasko. McCray spent the last two seasons with the Houston Texans, playing guard primarily. McCray shouldn’t demand a costly salary and his versatility along the offensive line will make him an appealing option for the Cowboys’ front office.
Again, he should command a modest salary that would still allow the team to develop other options while having some insurance at the position going into the draft. A signing like this would give the Cowboys a lot of flexibility along the interior offensive line.