The counter has reached single digits in terms of days that separate us from the 2023 NFL Draft. They are going to be some of the more exciting days of the entire offseason.
As true as that is, the Dallas Cowboys have provided us with a handful of opportunities to hoot and holler since their most recent campaign ended. Trades for Stephon Gilmore and Brandin Cooks headline an offseason period that also saw the return of key contributors like Donovan Wilson and Leighton Vander Esch (among others). The point is that good work has been done.
While that is true, and while the NFL draft is an important landmark, there are still a handful of other things that need tending to with regards to America’s Team. Those things have some question marks of sorts circled around them, but on Tuesday we picked up a little bit of clarity.
Stephen Jones offered some insight on the status of where Tyler Smith will line up in 2023 as well as where things stand contractually with CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs
One of the points of true discourse this offseason around here came about when Cowboys brass inferred while at the owners meetings that Terence Steele could line up at left guard. That quite literally came out of nowhere.
We can table the Steele discussion for another day, but obviously if he is lining up at left guard then it means that Tyler Smith is not. Where exactly Smith will line up remains a point of discussion these days, and it was one brought to Stephen Jones’ attention during his Tuesday appearance on 105.3 The Fan.
“I think that at the end of the day, I think everybody would like to think, that we could keep him there at left tackle and have his progression continue which has, by the way, been just amazing what he accomplished coming from Tulsa and being able to step in after practicing at left guard virtually all through the preseason. And then stepping in for Tyron and playing the left tackle position as a rookie at such a high level.”
“But at the same time I know Mike and Mike Solari... they want the best five guys on the field. I know here as we start here, yesterday, start to have our guys in here on a more regular basis that certainly we’ll see what that combination looks like. So you don’t ever rule anything out.”
“I do know everybody deep down would love to think that we could continue to play Tyler there at the left tackle spot, but at the end of the day Tyler’s going to be for that. Tyron was last year, volunteering to move over to right tackle. Certainly we’ve got Steele who’s one of our top offensive linemen. We’ll just see how that works out.”
“I don’t think we’re totally committed to anything just yet but at the same time certainly like the thought process of him being able to continue to grow as a left tackle.”
This does not really answer anything, but it certainly shows how inclined the Cowboys seem to be to leave Tyler at left tackle. It seems like reaching a bit to say this, but Jones’ quote almost makes it seem like this is purely in the hands of the two Mikes, McCarthy and Solari (as it should be).
This question could solve itself in the next two weeks. Say the Cowboys draft an interior lineman in the first round, then their left guard question is solved and the dominoes around it will start to fall.
Of course, the Cowboys could draft a wide receiver in the first round or maybe even cornerback if things broke a certain way. The future at those positions is a bit cloudy in some sense and the reason for that is the contractual status of both CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs, the team’s top two draftees three years ago.
As a 2020 first-round pick Lamb is eligible to have his fifth-year option picked up by the team this offseason, a mechanism that would lock him in contractually through at least the 2024 season. Diggs was taken in the second round which means as things currently stand he is set to enter a contract year. Stephen was asked specifically about whether or not Lamb’s option would be picked up, and whether or not contract discussions with him have begun, but while answering that question he brought up Diggs on his own.
“Well obviously our focus has been on keeping the guys who were free, keeping the guys that we could keep. But we’re not able to always have a clean run. But as we said we were certainly thrilled to get Dono Wilson in the mix there. Certainly we lost some tough ones in terms of Dalton and then of course Connor McGovern. But that’s certainly our priority.”
“As we move forward that’ll become a bigger priority here as we move past the draft. We’ve historically signed a lot of guys during that training camp period to extensions. But guys like CeeDee Lamb and Diggs are certainly on our radar in terms of guys that we’d love to have around here for another five-six years, whatever that turns out to be.”
Again, not trying to read too much into anything here, but you have to wonder whether that “five-six years” is a number that has been thrown out with regards to the potential length of a contract. We know how the Cowboys love their longer deals.
We also know that the Cowboys do, in fact, love to get things done while at training camp, so logic stands to reason that these are matters that may not get tended to until the team is out in Oxnard a few months from now. Until then, the questions will continue to hover and Stephen Jones will continue to answer them as he sees fit.