An underrated name among the Dallas Cowboys’ many 2020 free agents is Joe Looney. The versatile center-guard option helped Dallas make the playoffs in 2018 as a 16-game starter during Travis Frederick’s absence. Unfortunately, that performance may be what sends Looney to a new team this offseason.
Still just 29 years old and with that 2018 campaign on his resume, Looney could be an attractive bargain option for a team needing an experienced starter at either center or guard. That won’t be the Cowboys this year; Frederick, Zack Martin, and Connor Williams are all locked up for 2020 and beyond.
Joe’s compensation the last two years in Dallas has been just a little over $1 million per season. A team offering him a starting opportunity could offer him substantially more without the breaking the bank, but would still likely take him out of the Cowboys’ price range as a backup.
There would be an argument to keep Looney as a trusted, verstaile reserve even if it meant paying $2-$3 million per year. But Dallas is hoping that Connor McGovern, their third-round pick in 2019, will be able to fill that role.
Indeed, when the Cowboys drafted McGovern it felt like a move with 2020 in mind. With both Looney and Xavier Su’a-Filo free agents this year, Dallas appeared to be preparing for that by adding McGovern and hopefully grooming him for the backup role.
Unfortunately, a pectoral injury knocked Connor out of his rookie season. That may move Dallas to add a veteran player as insurance in case McGovern’s development was stunted.
But the chances of that veteran being Joe Looney seem slim.
Versatility is a valuable asset in the NFL, and especially when it can save a team one of their precious roster spots. There’s also a premium on guys who can play center with all of its technical nuances, and Looney’s 2018 season proved a lot to the rest of the league.
Of course, Joe could test free agency and not find that new deal. Perhaps he would then accept a discount to return to Dallas.
But between Looney’s strong play as a Cowboy and the evergreen need for solid offensive linemen throughout the NFL, it’s hard to imagine somebody won’t make him an offer. And if they do, that money is probably going to be more than Dallas wants to pay.
No, Joe Looney signing with a new team isn’t going to change anyone’s feelings about the Cowboys’ ability to compete in 2020. But if we were to have another significant loss on the offensive line, he’s a valuable asset who could wind up being greatly missed.