Dallas Cowboys Free Agency Options at Offensive Line


Obviously the Cowboys’ cap situation is a grave concern.  Currently, they’re 18.2 million over the cap. According to Steelers Depot, all of the signing bonus will be assessed the following year if the player is released before June 1, and all of the signing bonus minus the 2013 year if on or after June 1. For Miles Austin, using their methodology, for example, would save the Cowboys 3.6 million in cap if he were released before June 1. Jonathan Bales on DallasCowboys.com writes that the cap charge on Miles Austin should the Cowboys release him after June 1 would be 6.8 million. I don’t know how, as this runs completely counter to what Steelers Depot said. This tells us what we already know-basically no one knows for sure how the cap works use Spotrac for all cap numbers. What Steelers Depot fails to mention is that both bonus and salary count against the cap. (H/T colleague CowGirlCas).  So let’s take a hypothetical number of $4 million. That sounds like enough for a decent, if slightly flawed, offensive lineman. That also sounds grossly unrealistic, if not impossible, once the draft is factored in. Still, one can hope.

I follow Walterfootball.com with an almost fanatical obsession. Last year, he didn’t like our two offensive line signings. Just to rub some salt in the wound, here is what he wrote about one of our free agency:

“Unfortunately for Cowboy fans, I’m going to have to give them another bad grade. ******* ******* is a mediocre backup at best, so I have no idea why anyone would think he’s worth $11 million over four years.”

December 30, 2012; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) lines up against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

He was talking about Mackenzy Bernadeau, and this was basically my reaction without actually knowing who Mackenzy Bernadeau was.   If I have to choose between the Nate Livings and Bernadeau, I choose Livings, if only because he occasionally looked as if he was capable of being on a football field. Still, he will need to be replaced as well. The draft is a great and cheap way to do that, so I think two of the three interior line positions will be filled there. The last one probably will be through free agency, even though I truly doubt that the Cowboys will have even the four million to satisfy a passable guard. That means that Livings and Bernadeau probably stay (both, from my understanding, would cost more to cut than to keep), but in a backup role. In my mock drafts, I will assume the Cowboys opt to draft all three, but realistically only two are likely.

Our first option is Chad Rinehart. He ended the year on injured reserve. That really is his greatest flaw. He is only 28 and could be had on a decent contract. I can’t imagine a one time practice squad guard that ended the year on IR getting more than a 2 year deal, but a one year, 4 million dollar deal or a 2 year, 10 million dollar one wouldn’t surprise me. He could go for more if a desperate team overpays, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see a 2 year, $6 million deal either. He’s kind of a wild card. If his name stalls late into free agency, I could see the Cowboys getting him for $3 million. An okay comparable is Bobby Williams. Last year, he was 35 and coming off a season ending ankle injury. He earned less than a million dollars his first year. Obviously his age dampened his contract value, but considering the longevity of  guards, I can’t imagine his age lowered his contract significantly. He was probably a $2.5 million guard before, and that fell to a $1.1 million guard (the average after including the second year). Just a note: Pro Football Focus rates Rinehart as the eighth best guard in free agency. This puts him just out of the top twenty percent. Granted, this is only in 170 snaps, but he was also capable last year. In short, even though he put forth a short sample, he is a legitimate guard who could start for a majority of NFL teams.

The other option is Daniel Thomas. He is one year younger at 27, so he will probably be more expensive than Rinehart. The closest I could find to a comparable is Russ Hochstein, who performed no where the level Thomas did. He was also 32. The Broncos resigned him a 2 year, 3.5 million dollar deal. Considering age and talent, I don’t think a two year, 9 million dollar is out of the question. That blows the bank slightly, but 4 million dollars was always a rough cap number anyway. And again, the Cowboys need cap prodigies to get out of this one, so if they can get out under 18.2 million dollars of cap they must be able to get another four million after factoring in the draft, since they would have already done the virtually impossible.

Correction to last weeks post: Millared noted that the Cowboys traded their seventh round pick for Ryan Cook. Thanks for correcting me, and I’ll try to make sure mistakes like that don’t happen again. Also, please correct me in the comments section if I miss something like that. Thanks for reading!