The Dallas Cowboys entered this offseason with a need at the offensive tackle position. How much of a need was/is a topic for much debate around Cowboys Nation. Without direct access to doctors reports or PT reports, it’s impossible to know how exactly Tyron Smith and La’el Collins are coming along in their rehab.
The players and the team both say things are going quite swimmingly and both offensive tackles should be back to top form by Week 1. But isn’t that what they’re supposed to say? Given their age and injury type, even if things were going well, isn’t the chance of re-injury fairly significant? What if one or both aren’t ready to go? What if one or both suffer a setback in their rehab at some point?
Do the Dallas Cowboys need an immediate contributor at OT or a developmental guy?
Dallas Cowboys fans saw firsthand what it looks like when a team loses both of their starting tackles. It’s painful and the entire offense has to adjust. And considering this team is built on the 40-burger offense and needs elite production from offense in order to mask the weaknesses of the defense, they can’t afford for the same thing to happen again.
That’s why not too long ago, offensive tackle was atop many draftniks’ lists. Guys like Rashawn Slater and Penei Sewell were dream targets for Dallas at Pick 10. Because for as bad as the defense was/is, preserving the high powered offense was priority. If we’re being honest with ourselves, nothing Dallas could do this offseason will make the defense actually good. They need to have a 40-burger offense just to have a shot.
Then things changed…
The Dallas Cowboys recently used some actions to back up their words. They restructured the contracts of Tyron and La’el so they could afford to re-sign Dak Prescott. The move shifted money back on the two tackles and signaled the Cowboys have faith in their future with the organization.
They also locked in an affordable sing tackle to back the two up. They didn’t go for the homerun and bring in someone they thought would have start for half the games. They signed Ty Nsekhe, a solid, yet unspectacular, offensive tackle.
Again, their actions signaled faith in La’el and Tyron.
So it’s no wonder the idea of drafting an OT with Pick 10 has lost its luster. Nobody wants to draft a player they don’t need. And it appears the two tackles really are on track to make it back this season.
That brings us to our draft strategy. What this draft lacks in blue-chip talent, it makes up for in high-potential developmental talent. Guys like Walker Little from Stanford and D’Ante Smith from East Carolina have franchise LT potential but both are going to need patience .
The Dallas Cowboys could realistically use a 3rd or even 4th round pick on an offensive tackle this year and have him develop into a franchise caliber bookend one day. That’s not a common occurrence, my friends, since most top tackles are nearly exclusive to the first round.
This is the perfect draft for the Dallas Cowboys to sign a developmental prospect because they have the luxury of patience. They believe La’el and Tyron will be good to go by Week 1. They believe they just solidified themselves at swing tackle as well. They are in position to ease someone into the system and groom them for the future.
At age 30, Tyron Smith isn’t old for an OT, but he has high mileage and he’s coming off a neck injury. Any game could realistically be his last. Collins is younger but has his own career hindering injury to worry about long-term (hip).
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One way or another, a job at starting OT will likely be available in the next two years. It would be nice to have an inexpensive, potentially elite, prospect on standby ready to slide in. Need further convincing?
Look at the going rate for a starting OT these days. Tyron’s $12.2 average annual salary is just the 19th most in the league. The latest franchise OT just signed for $23 million per season. Think about that sum.
It’s not just franchise QBs whose salaries are going through the roof, it’s all of the key positions (QB, OT, CB, WR, and EDGE). It sure would be nice to have a starting caliber OT at the ready when and if the Dallas Cowboys lose one of their volatile starters.
For me the answer is clear: the Dallas Cowboys need to focus on a developmental OT this draft cycle. With tantalizing high-risk/high-reward prospects like Little and Smith available in the middle rounds, this is the perfect time to set themselves up for the future.