Ronald Leary indirectly gives the Dallas Cowboys depth at four of five O-line positions, making him far too valuable to trade.
For the Dallas Cowboys and the rest of the NFL, this is the time of year where select players voice their displeasure by skipping voluntary team activities. Some players skip for personal reasons, some for contract reasons, and some for playing time reasons.
The Dallas Cowboys former starting guard, Ronald Leary, falls into the last category.
It wasn’t too long ago Ronald Leary made up 1/5 of the best offensive line in football. In 2014, Leary provided grit and toughness on a very young and very talented Cowboys offensive line. The Dallas Cowboys boasted three first round picks along that line, and ran behind it on the way to a league-best 12-4 record.
Extra draft picks are always nice but so is having starting caliber depth along the offensive line.
One year later, Leary found himself not only without a starting job, but he found himself a repeat game day “inactive”. Rather than riding the pine yet another season, Leary is requesting a trade. It’s hard to blame him too…
Leary entered the league in 2012 as an undrafted free agent. A degenerative knee condition tanked his 3rd round draft stock, making him a priority free agent to multiple teams. The Dallas Cowboys won the bidding war and within a year, Leary was the starting guard for the Dallas Cowboys.
Leary went on to start at guard for two more seasons before losing his job to another highly rated undrafted free agent, La’el Collins. Collins, considered a first round talent, showed enough his rookie season to make him a lock at starter in 2016. And since Leary can’t play center, he’s usually a game day inactive making his fall all the more substantial.
Ronald Leary’s professional career will likely depend on the health of his knee. He’s well aware it could end prematurely, making wasted seasons like 2015 rightfully unacceptable.
Ronald Leary knows he would be a starter on at least 20 teams in the NFL. The sooner he can find a team to play on, the sooner he can get a little long-term security by way of second contract. That’s why Leary wants out ASAP. And that’s why Leary is skipping voluntary team activities.
"“Obviously, he’d like to start somewhere, and I don’t blame him for that,” Stephen Jones said. “I think he’s a starting-caliber offensive guard in this league.”"
The Dallas Cowboys want to keep Leary because he’s a darn good player who can slide into either guard position without issue. But with no intention of retaining him after the season, they also see an opportunity to get something in return for him now, rather than lose him without compensation next offseason.
While that’s certainly sound logic, it’s also extremely risky.
Ronald Leary is valuable depth to the backbone of the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. The entire Cowboys team is built around their offensive line. The dominant line provides a strong running-game. The running game controls the clock, sets up the pass, scores points, and keeps the defense fresh.
If injures were to strike the offensive line, the entire team would crumble. In a very real way, Leary protects the Cowboys at four of five O-line positions.
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Obviously Leary can play either guard spot, so the depth there is a no-brainer. But if either of the tackles were to fall, Leary could still help. Without a proven swing tackle on-hand, the Cowboys could roll either Zack Martin or La’el Collins to fill the role of tackle, should it be needed. Both players have starting tackle experience and both appear to be perfectly capable of covering in a pinch.
And since moving either of them would create a hole at guard, Leary would make it all possible.
Losing Leary for nothing next season seems a small price to pay for the valuable insurance he provides in 2016. Maybe the Dallas Cowboys can fetch a 6th round pick for Ronald Leary in the coming months. Extra draft picks are always nice but so is having starting caliber depth along the offensive line.
Ronald Leary provides depth at four of five offensive line positions, both directly and indirectly. He’s an important player at the Cowboys most important position group. Unless the Dallas Cowboys can get a starting caliber player (or high draft pick) in return, they just can’t afford to trade him – no matter how much he wants it and deserves it.