The Dallas Cowboys went through some stuff with their offensive line last year. Tyron Smith was injured in training camp, forcing them to ditch their original plan of playing rookie Tyler Smith at left guard and instead kicking him out to left tackle. Right tackle Terence Steele would go on IR late in the season. That led to having to call on Jason Peters, who had his own issues staying on the field. By the end of the 2022 campaign, they had to put Tyron in at right tackle.
This has led to some concerns about what the team will have to do to address their offensive line. Starting left guard Connor McGovern is set to enter free agency and he is going to be much more expensive if they want to bring him back. The only possible replacement for him under contract is Matt Farniok, who has shown some promise but is largely untested.
That is looking at things strictly from the viewpoint of the Cowboys. But every team is facing their own roster situation. It is relevant to consider how Dallas stacks up against the rest of the league. According to one evaluation, they may well be in much better shape than you might realize.
The Athletic recently had an article that looked at the offensive line for each team this offseason. They didn’t just consider the needs teams had in the position group, but how it stacked up against the rest of their roster needs. The article put it like this:
This exercise is not a power ranking; it is meant to contextualize two things:
A given team’s need to upgrade a particular position group compared to other teams around the league.
How that need at the given position compares to other positions on its own roster.
They then ranked the priority each team in the league would need to put on upgrading and acquiring talent for their offensive line. According to their methodology, the Cowboys have a low need, a 3 on a 1-to-10 scale where 1 is the lowest need. That all ties Dallas for the sixth best offensive line situation in the NFL.
It’s all relative. That is a valuable thing to keep in mind. Everything comes down to how the team will stack up against each week’s opponent this season. As always, the most important games to consider are those against their NFC East rivals. There is a bit of bad news there, because the Philadelphia Eagles are in the best shape of any team in the league. But the rest of the division is really not in good shape. The Washington Commanders are tied for 22nd while the New York Giants are tied for 29th. The line is crucial to the overall performance of the offense. This hints that the division is going to be mainly a two team race this year.
There are also other considerations involved. Here is how Jon Machota explained things.
The combination of Zack Martin, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz and Terence Steele has the Cowboys set at four of their five starting offensive line positions. They will likely need to find a starting left guard if Connor McGovern leaves in free agency. They also need to develop some better depth. Tyron Smith is the most interesting question mark of this group. The eight-time Pro Bowler might have played his last snap in Dallas. If he returns, the Cowboys could put him back at left tackle and play Tyler Smith at left guard, which was the plan going into the 2022 season. But Tyron Smith’s inability to stay healthy led to Tyler Smith showing he’s the long-term player at left tackle.
The line that jumps out is about Tyron Smith possibly not returning. That may be a likely development. Not only has his health been an issue for years, he could easily be a cap casualty. Releasing him would create nearly $9.6 million in cap space, or $13.6 million if designated a post-June 1 cut. Dallas has to generate a lot of space this offseason with them already almost $7.2 million in the hole. They have to make a lot of moves, and releasing Tyron has to be on the table.
That obviously would create a depth issue, as the only other OTs on the roster are Matt Waletzko, Josh Ball, and Isaac Alarcon. All are mostly untested, and in limited action last year Ball did not impress.
However, remember that all teams are facing problems like that. Even the Eagles are waiting to see if 35-year-old Jason Kelce might choose to retire. That would lead to a reshuffling. While they are in good shape as far as options, it will certainly create some adjustments.
There are plenty of other position groups where the Cowboys need to be more concerned. Wide receiver and linebacker are very undermanned at the moment, and cornerback is not much better. The resources to build the roster for this year, cap space and draft picks, are limited. It is helpful if they don’t have to devote too much of those to the offensive line.