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Cowboys 2023 offseason position breakdown series: Offensive tackle

A breakdown of the offensive tackles on the Dallas Cowboys roster. The stats, the cap allocation and projections.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Position Breakdown Series is taking every position group for the Dallas Cowboys and looking at the players, their rankings, contract numbers and predicting the upcoming season for each player.

This edition is looking at the offensive tackles for Dallas, so let’s get straight to it.

Tyron Smith #77
Age: 32
Experience: 13 years
College: USC Trojans

2022 Stats:
Total Snaps: 401
Pass Block Snaps: 239
Run Block Snaps: 162
Sacks: 1
Pressures: 16
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $ 8,005,000 (3.5% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $15,290,000
Base Salary- $3,000,000
Signing Bonus- $1,000,000

2023 Projection:
Tom - A healthy Smith is one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL. Unfortunately, in recent seasons, that health has been elusive and spotty. The plan for now seems to be starting him at LT. Frankly, that looks too much like a cynical effort to wring whatever games they can out of his battered body. There is a tiny chance he will make it the entire season, but I just don’t see it happening. They are kicking this can down the road, but not very far.

Mike - Let’s start with the obvious negative, availability. The last time Smith played a full slate of games was in 2015 and as the saying goes - the best ability in the NFL is availability. Every year since 2015 the Cowboys have to compensate for when Smith has to miss time. This year that factor complicates the line structure even more because of the right tackle situation, which then has the domino effect of who plays left guard.

The coaches remain fully aware of this situation and are happy to deal with the headache this creates. That’s because Smith is such an elite level blocker. During his time in Dallas when he’s been on the field he’s easily one the best left tackles in the league, and for that reason the coaches will keep him as their starter until the time comes for him to miss time. The smart move made by the front office this year was adjusting Smith’s contract. His contract is now set up based on games or snaps played, so if he does miss time they can reclaim money back to use on next year’s contracts. But if he doesn’t miss time then the team gets an elite left tackle for a season, that’s a win-win.

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Terence Steele #78
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years
College: Texas Tech

2022 Stats:
Total Snaps: 818
Pass Block Snaps: 439
Run Block Snaps: 379
Sacks: 1
Pressures: 20
Penalties: 6

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $4,304,000 (1.8% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $0
Base Salary- $4,304,000
Signing Bonus- $0

2023 Projection:
Tom - With Smith, the question is how far into the season he will make it. With Steele, the question is now will he be ready to answer the bell for the first game? Having health concerns for both your projected starting OTs is not my idea of a fun time for all. A healthy Steele is at the least a competent tackle, and probably a good bit better than that. There were a bunch of roster issues that had to be addressed this offseason, and the team did a good job with most. But the offensive line just did not get the kind of attention that was needed. Now we find out if that is going to work out for them.

Mike - Keeping an eye on that clock ticking down to Week 1 is all we need to say about the Terence Steele situation. How this line looks for the start of the season depends on how quickly Steele can return to health and be football ready. The good news is according to reports is he’s ahead of schedule and should be ready for a portion of preseason training, but let’s see that before putting any take on Steele starting against the Giants. Last year he was arguably the best run-blocking lineman the Cowboys had and his effect in the run game was noticeable when the team lost him.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Josh Ball #75
Age: 25
Experience: 3 years
College: Marshall

2022 Stats:
Total Snaps: 113
Pass Block Snaps: 17
Run Block Snaps: 25
Sacks: 1
Pressures: 2
Penalties: 0

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $1,064,836 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $249,672
Base Salary- $940,000
Signing Bonus- $124,836

2023 Projection:
Tom - I just don’t get the feeling that Ball is long for this team. He seems to have been a bit of a disappointment to date. There is just a vibe the staff is not overly confident in him. I see this preseason as a make-or-break situation for him.

Mike - Before he got injured last year he looked raw and needed more development. Hopefully during this offseason he’s worked on technique and we get a player that can be relied upon when the injuries on the line start to roll in later in the season.

NFL: AUG 26 Preseason - Seahawks at Cowboys Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Matt Waletzko #79
Age: 23
Experience: 2 years
College: North Dakota

2021 Stats: (College)
Total Snaps: 620
Pass Block Snaps: 351
Run Block Snaps: 268
Sacks: 0
Pressures: 8
Penalties: 3

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $950,873 (0.4% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $242,619
Base Salary- $870,000
Signing Bonus- $80,873

2023 Projection:
Tom - Contrary to Ball, the staff seems really high on Waletzko. I think their ideal situation would be for the second-year man to become the swing tackle. However, that seems all but certain to mean he will be starting on one side before the season is out, possibly in week one. Waletzko missed his rookie season due to injury, so it’s not like he has a spotless bill of health. I think he has a lot of potential. I just don’t want him thrown to the wolves.

Mike - Of all the down roster players at Dallas this is the one I hope makes the biggest leap. Waletzko is a mountain of a man and has the skills to be a quality backup tackle. It was unlucky he got the injury when he did last season as everyone wanted to see what a guy like Waletzko could bring to this offensive line depth. Let’s hope he gets plenty of practice reps and the coaches play him in preseason so we can see how effective he can become.

Asim Richards #76
Age: 22
Experience: Rookie
College: North Carolina

2022 Stats: (College)
Total Snaps: 971
Pass Block Snaps: 574
Run Block Snaps: 326
Sacks: 2
Pressures: 14
Penalties: 3

2023 Contract:
Cap Cost- $811,244 (0.3% Total Cap)
Dead Cap- $244,976
Base Salary- $750,000
Signing Bonus- $61,244

2023 Projection:
Tom - I’m pretty sure Richards was drafted with an intention to move him to guard, but we all know how the Cowboys love them some position flex. That is a point in his favor. I figure he is going to make the roster, perhaps ahead of Ball. Then we will see how it goes. If something should happen that would force the team to move Tyler Smith back out to tackle, Richards may be in the mix for the starting LG position. Yeah, it gets kind of complicated.

Mike - This was a solid and sensible pick by Dallas in the draft and made complete sense. I agree with Tom. The expectation for Richards will be to move inside. Looking at his height, weight and the way he can compete with power in the run game makes him perfectly suited to play guard. We will find out when he lines up in practice at camp the expectations for him in 2023.

Additional Mentions:

Earl Bostick Jr #64

Alex Taylor #69

Mike - Taylor is the bigger question mark to earn a practice squad position; he will need to use his superb athletic ability to flash enough to impress. But Bostick Jr has all the right boxes checked to put himself in a position to make a practice squad push, and maybe even get called onto the active roster a few times in the season if the situation calls for it.

Tom - These may be more than just afterthoughts, especially Bostick. It makes sense to stash OT depth on the practice squad with the high likelihood of needing it during the season. I really expect at least one of these to be contending for that kind of job, perhaps in a competition with Ball.

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