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Cowboys free agency: Jason Peters returning as a player or in another way?

Cowboys ownership already hinted at a potential return for the veteran tackle. What would that mean?

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Going back to the 2020 season, Mike McCarthy’s first year with the Dallas Cowboys, the offense has not had the same five offensive linemen for most of the season.

Here are the line combinations from left to right tackle that played the most snaps at their position.

2020: Brandon Knight, Connor Williams, Joe Looney, Zack Martin, Terence Steele

2021: Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, La’el Collins

2022: Tyler Smith, Connor McGovern, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Terence Steele

Entering 2023, the Cowboys might have the most questions to answer about their offensive line since McCarthy took over.

Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, and Zack Martin are penciled in to be a part of the starting five for Week 1. Dallas has to fill the left guard and right tackle positions outside those three. McGovern is a free agent, questions loom around Tyron Smith’s future, and Steele is recovering from a torn ACL injury.

Jason Peters is an interesting free agent that could provide depth for the left guard and right tackle positions.

Evaluation of Peters’ 2022 season

When Tyron Smith went down with a torn hamstring before the season, the Cowboys were comfortable making Tyler Smith their starting left tackle but needed someone behind him. Josh Ball has taken some time to develop, and Matt Waletzko was battling a shoulder injury, so the Cowboys opted to sign the long-time Philadelphia Eagle, Jason Peters, instead.

Peters, 41, took a while to ramp up coming out of training camp and didn’t see his first in-game action until Week 3 against the New York Giants. In that matchup, Peters played 14 snaps in a rotation at left guard. The Cowboys seemed to run the ball better with him in the game.

He got more playing time the following week against the Washington Commanders, but was inactive against the Los Angeles Rams, and didn’t play against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6. Peters was on a rotation along the offensive line for the rest of the season or would come in as needed.

His best game of the season was against the Texans, where on the final drive needing to take the lead, he replaced Ball at right tackle and helped the offense orchestrate a game-winning touchdown.

Entering the Wild Card matchup with Tampa Bay, McCarthy went with the best five players on the offensive line, which included Peters at left tackle. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it through the entire game and left with a hip injury. He was unavailable to play in Dallas’ final game against San Francisco.

Overall, Peters was a welcomed addition to the offensive line with his mentorship and veteran knowledge. He had a positive impact on the position group despite being available for limited snaps. Father Time seemingly caught up to him, which could force him into retirement before the new season kicks off.

Where Peters’ fits into the plan for 2023

The Cowboys have a new offensive line coach in Mike Solari, so the conversation starts with his evaluation of Peters and what he would bring to the team. The Cowboys would move on if Solari feels his age and health are holding him back from being an asset.

However, Owner Jerry Jones mentioned at the Senior Bowl that he expects Tyron Smith and Peters to return this season.

Peters might feel inclined to return to Dallas, given he is a native of Bowie County, TX, and would like to stay close to home. He does provide position flex, having played at left guard and both tackle spots for the Cowboys. If McGovern signs with another team, Dallas doesn’t have proven depth behind their starting five, so Peters would be an excellent insurance policy like he was in 2022.

Peters talked about a willingness to coach other players and help them develop at the NFL level. His biggest asset to the team this season would be his mentorship and being an on-field coach for Tyler Smith. Peters played a vital role in Tyler Smith’s success as a rookie.

However, and this is pure speculation on my part, Peters’ best role for the Cowboys in 2023 might not be as a player. Jerry Jones mentioned that Peters would be back in 2023 but didn’t mention in what capacity—as a player or otherwise.

It was a win-win situation for Dallas and Peters to provide offensive line depth and have Peters in his home state last season. If the Cowboys want to continue to develop their young players and Peters intends to remain in Texas, it might be best to bring in Peters as a coach instead.

Look at the facts. Peters is an older player, he started the least amount of games since his rookie year in 2004, he talked about his enjoyment of coaching others, and the Cowboys have recently brought in former players to be coaching assistants on their staff.

Adding another tea leaf to the possibility, McCarthy promoted Jeff Blasko as the team’s running backs coach this year. He has been the assistant offensive line coach since 2020. That means there is an opening if the Cowboys want to fill the vacancy.

As I mentioned, It’s 100 percent speculation. Having Peters back would be a benefit for the Cowboys in 2023. However, if he is a coach, he wouldn’t count towards the salary cap or be a progress stopper. It’s just something to keep in mind.

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