Offensive Lineman Uchechukwu Eberechukwu Nwaneri (Uche (OO-chay) for short) was signed by the Dallas Cowboys several days ago, though details of the deal are yet to be released. The move was made possible when offensive guard Tyrone Green, a 2009 Chargers pick out of Auburn, was placed on Injured Reserve. While Nwaneri is definitely a talented football player, his signing is rather confusing for a team who already boasts one of – if not the best offensive line.
The assumption by most sportswriters and fans is that Uche Nwaneri will simply provide depth at the offensive guard spot. It is hard to believe, though, that a 30-year old who started 63 of his previous 64 games – and was let go only to clear room in the salary cap – would sign with a team just to be a back-up. Not only that, but why would the Cowboys seek so much depth for the interior of the offensive line? Either Ronald Leary or Mackenzy Bernadeau who were both solid starters last season, is already likely to lose his job to Zack Martin and will thus provide that depth.
Sure, the team needs insurance in case of injury, but why tie up money in similar asserts? Neither Nwaneri, Bernadeau, or Leary have shown a great ability to play the tackle or center positions. Given that, the team has essentially invested in a proven veteran, to back-up only two positions on the line, where there already is one.
It’s not that Nwaneri isn’t a good depth player, it just seems odd that Dallas wouldn’t prefer to spend the money demanded by someone of his experience/abilities on the defensive side of the ball. Furthermore, teams often like to use back-up offensive line spots on younger players with the chance to develop. With Doug Free in the last year of his contract and the long-term durability of Ronald Leary in question, this sounds like the more sensible thing to do.
Is it possible that the signing of Nwaneri signals an early departure for Doug Free? With the Cowboys carrying three capable OG starters, perhaps the team is showing a desire to let 1st-round pick Martin play his collegiate position. It is doubtful that many teams are beckoning for Free’s services, but if a Tackle should suffer injury on a competitive team, #68 may be high in demand.
At the very least, Nwaneri should push Leary, Bernadeau, and Martin to perform their best (it wouldn’t be the first time a 1st-rounder doesn’t start). While competition is always good, it is still somewhat puzzling that the Cowboys would continue to build an already strong unit. It would be different if other areas were not so in need of attention. At this point, one has to wonder why Dallas is seemingly neglecting areas of need to bolster areas of strength.