Cowboys offensive line is facing a turnover dilemma in the near future
The Cowboys offensive line is entering a critical season. 12 months from now they could see a 60% churn in starting personnel. Aside from Zack Martin and Tyler Smith, there may be an entire new cast of characters lining up in Dallas’ offensive trench.
Tyron Smith is returning at a reduced cost for his 13th season. After this upcoming performance-based season, he becomes financially expendable. Given all the injuries he’s sustained and all the time he’s missed, it probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if 2023 was his last season with the Cowboys (or anywhere for that matter).
Terence Steele, the starting right tackle, is slated to play on a second-round, restricted free agent tender in 2023. If no long-term deal is struck, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next March. Dallas seems to like him quite a bit but with Steele’s biggest supporter, Joe Philbin, out and new offensive line coach Mike Solari in, much can change this season.
Complicating matters is Steele’s health. Steele fell to an ACL injury last December and is currently in the process of rehabbing for the 2023 season. Cowboys COO Stephen Jones says Steele’s ahead of schedule and will return in time for training camp, but that’s far from guaranteed.
Steele is also a tough valuation because he’s regarded as an elite run blocker but a below average pass protector. Depending on team priorities going forward, that could be no big deal or that could be a major issue.
Tyler Biadasz is also a free agent in 2024. The fourth-year center has played 16 or more games two years in a row and is coming off another decent season of play. His play in 2023 will likely determine what Dallas does with him long-term.
Biadasz is generally regarded as solid mid-level center. Will that be what the Cowboys are looking for long-term or would they rather start anew and bring in a low cost replacement with a higher upside on a rookie deal?
There’s also the depth waiting in the wings. Matt Waletzko was a tantalizing project player Dallas drafted in 2022. He’s a bit of a project player but his ceiling is sky-high. Josh Ball is a player who looked a lot like Steele did in his early days. In limited action in 2022, Ball was great as a run blocker but poor as a pass protector. The Cowboys could see him with the same career arc as Steele and use Ball to replace Steele in 2024.
Much will come down to how each player fits within Solari’s system and the development of young players down the roster. Aside from Martin and Tyler Smith, nothing appears to be stable for 2024.
It’s an issue the Cowboys have certainly discussed internally and is sure to have an impact in the 2023 draft
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