With the draft fast approaching, the Dallas Cowboys have needs all across the board. Over the next two weeks, we will offer up a position-by-position review of the roster and match up the best available in the draft at those positions.
On the roster: Tyron Smith (signed through 2023), Doug Free (signed through 2017), Travis Frederick (signed through 2017), Zack Martin (signed through 2018), Ron Leary (signed through 2016), La’el Collins (signed through 2017), Joe Looney (signed through 2017), Charles Brown (signed through 2016), Chaz Green (signed through 2018), Justin Renfrow (signed through 2017), Jared Smith (signed through 2017).
Cap status: Tyron Smith $6.8 million, Free $5.5 million, Leary $2.553 million, Martin $2.445 million, Frederick $2.185 million, Looney $825,000, Green $696,468, Brown $600,000, Collins $533,750,, Renfrow $450,000, Jared Smith $450,000.
Position review: The Cowboys have what many consider the best line in football. Smith is the best young tackle in the league, and he’s already entering his sixth season. And he’s just 25. Frederick had his best season last year and made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year. Martin might have been better as a rookie than he was in 2015, but he could be the best guard in football.
Collins showed flashes as a rookie but needs to get a better mental grasp for the position. He can get himself in trouble too often, but the more he plays, the better he should be. Free is a solid right tackle as he enters his 10th season. When he plays with proper technique, he is more than serviceable.
The Cowboys think highly of Leary, as evidenced by the second-round tender they put on him. He could start for just about any other team and maybe he becomes a trade chip for the draft or later during training camp.
The Cowboys signed Looney to be their backup center and guard on gameday. Green did not play as a rookie because of hip surgery, but the hope is he becomes their swing tackle on gameday. If he struggles, then Brown could handle that role again.
Draft need: LOW: They have made their investments already with first rounders Smith, Frederick and Martin. They have committed to Collins as well, fully guaranteeing his contract. They addressed the swing tackle spot last year in Green as a third rounder. Teams can always use offensive linemen, but the Cowboys won’t have to do any reaching for one. This group is largely set.
The offensive line scene: Last week’s trade by the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans opened up a scenario not thought possible for the Cowboys in Laremy Tunsil. While pleased with Doug Free as the starter, Tunsil would give the Cowboys another first-rounder up front and make this group better.
Ultimately it seems unlikely the Cowboys make a play for Tunsil even if available but it could open up trade-down possibilities that could net the Cowboys more picks.
An intriguing name to watch is a familiar one: Nick Martin. He is Zack’s younger brother. The Cowboys coached him at the Pro Bowl. He can play center and guard. If the Cowboys are going to find it difficult to pay Travis Frederick, Martin would allow them a chance to have a nice replacement in 2018 while manning the interior backup spots.
The Cowboys brought in guards Connor McGovern and Isaac Seumalo for visits to Valley Ranch prior to the draft. Both have position flexibility, which is a big trait the Cowboys look for in linemen. Seumalo has some injury concerns but he could be a good mid-round find.
The best guess: If the Cowboys go for an offensive lineman, I can see it happening on Day 3 of the draft. While injuries can wreck a line in a hurry, the Cowboys have filled in adequately behind their starters to deal. Picks in rounds 4-7 would be about building depth for the future.