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Could Nick Hayden Return to Dallas?

Last March the Cowboys elected to let three-year starter walk away as a . Always more of a coach's darling than an favorite, Hayden stuck around as long as he did for his work ethic and attitude over actual performance. The Cowboys finally decided they needed more and moved on. Hayden remains a free agent right now.

Cowboys Blog - Staff Wars: Was Hayden Correct In Calling Out Broaddus?Dallas signed from the Eagles to play beside . They also used a third-round pick on from Nebraska, who was expected to contribute quickly as an immediate fit for 's scheme. With also returning and guys like and able to play inside, there's been no reason to expect Hayden to return.

Now we know that Collins has a broken foot and will miss most or even all of and . We also know that defensive ends and will miss up to the first four weeks of the season with . These factors could have opened the door for Hayden's return.

Collins may not be able to immediately contribute even once healthy, having missed all of this practice work. He could be placed on the PUP list, opening a roster spot and depth need at . Dallas will hope that veteran Terrell McClain can finally stay healthy and be the immediate backup.

Cowboys Blog - The Defensive Line is in Worse Shape Than I Thought 3Hoping in McClain is hardly good bet. He has had issues throughout his career and especially since joining the Cowboys. Even if Dallas doesn't feel the need to bring back Hayden now, would another McClain injury cause them to pick the phone?

What if Dallas feels they need to play Tyrone Crawford at while Lawrence and Gregory are out? The group of , , , Jack Crawford, and David Irving should hopefully produce two capable starters. But “should” allows for the possibility of failure.  Dallas could elect to re-sign Hayden as a temporary starter.

This is all assuming, of course, that Hayden still want to play football. He did visit with Seattle in but remains unsigned. He turned 30 last February and may be already mentally checked out from the game. Given the rise of early retirements in the NFL it would not be hard to imagine.

Cowboys Headlines - Cowboys' Top-Five Needs as Free Agency Nears 3There is a precedent for a late re- like this. Last year Dallas tried to find better options at before ultimately bringing back  in late May. In the absence of a clear upgrade, something you're comfortable with is often the preferred option.

In all likelihood Dallas will stick with younger players given the temporary nature of their issues. They will suffer through whatever early-season problems comes from Collins, Gregory, and Lawrence's absences and hope that the young guys benefit from the real-game work.

However, with games against the Giants and Washington to open the year, you could hardly blame Dallas for being worried about takings risks. Nick Hayden may be a low-risk, low-reward player but he was their starter when they went 12-4 and won the .

He may be closer to returning than you think.

Jess Haynie
Jess Haynie
Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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