Cowboys' Job Security: RB & O-Line ⋆
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Cowboys’ Job Security: RB & O-Line

Cowboys Blog - Cowboys' Job Security: RB & O-Line

Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ Job Security: RB & O-Line

With eight games in and at least eight to go, it seemed a fine time to evaluate the roster. There are many different perspectives you can go with, but if you know me at all then you know I love to put my General Manager hat on. Today we’re going to look at players within the context of job security, the likelihood that they will still be Cowboys next season.

Yesterday we discussed quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends. We now move to the rest of the offense with the running backs, fullback, and offensive line.

RUNNING BACKS

Darren McFadden – Signed through 2016

The question at this point isn’t if McFadden will return, but at what price? If he maintains his current production through the end of the year, McFadden could finish anywhere between 1,000 and 1,400 yards for the season. His 2016 salary is set for just $1.8 million, with a few incentives but nothing major.

McFadden could try to renegotiate and he’d have a fair bit of leverage. The good news is that Dallas will likely meet his price so long as its reasonable, nothing over $5 million per year. Barring an injury or sudden drop-off during the second half of this season, I have no doubt that McFadden will be back.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 90%

Lance Dunbar – 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dunbar was lucky to get in a few highly productive games before going down with injury. It at least keeps the conversation going as to his value, otherwise he wouldn’t have a prayer after years of being a non-factor and injury prone.

Dallas may offer him a minimal deal to come back from the knee surgery and keep his career going. However, they also signed a Dunbar-like player recently in Trey Williams. They may be preparing for life without him, or just looking for a guy to fill his shoes until next season. Only they know for sure.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 33%

Christine Michael – Signed through 2016

Michael makes a great insurance policy against McFadden’s injury prone history. His running style fits our scheme. I see no reason he won’t return and perhaps be in a position to replace McFadden after 2016.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Rod Smith – Signed through 2017

The rookie has yet to get a carry in Dallas but they thought enough of him to claim him off waivers from the Seahawks. Hard to say what will happen with him once we hit the offseason. That decision will likely be based more on practice performance than anything happens in a game.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

Trey Williams – 2016 Exclusive Rights Free Agent

As already said, Williams has a similar size and style to Dunbar. Dallas picked him off Washington’s practice squad a few weeks ago. They have interest and, like with Rod Smith, probably won’t see enough in games to make a decision on. It will come down to practice and the desire to see what Williams can do after a full offseason with the team.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 50%

FULLBACK

Tyler Clutts – 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dallas tried to go another direction last year, bringing in Jed Collins and Ray Agnew in free agency two months before finally re-signing Clutts. They will likely try again, but you have to leave the possibility open that he’ll return, but I doubt Clutts survives a second offseason.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Tyron Smith – Signed through 2023

Look at that year again. Yeah…

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Doug Free – Signed through 2017

Free may be the most interesting guy on today’s list. He has two contract years left and will count $5.5 and $6.5 million in each of those seasons. Dallas could cut him for $2.5 million in cap space this offseason, or for $4 million in savings if they spread the hit over two years (making him a June 1st cut). If they wait until 2017 to cut him, it’s $5 million in savings.

Free is what he is, a strong run blocker with limitations in pass protection and a propensity for false starts. He’s certainly adequate and not really overpaid for the services he provides. The question will be if Dallas sees any upgrades in the draft or free agency, or perhaps even in house. More on that below with Chaz Green.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 75%

Chaz Green – Signed through 2018

Green is a key factor here. He was a third-round pick last May and will be returning to action in the next few weeks after being on PUP. If Green can get in some time during a blowout (one way or the other) or from injury, Dallas may see enough that they could look to make him the front runner in a competition with other rookies or free agents.

More likely, and why I’ve got Free at 75% to return, is that Green will come back in competition with him. I think we’ll wind up with both guys on the team, one of them as the swing tackle and the other starting. Dallas would probably eat Free’s salary at that point and look to cut him in 2017 for the far greater cap relief.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Charles Brown – 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

Dallas finally landed on Brown after much concern with their swing tackle position as the preseason ended. It’s hard to know how much interest they have moving forward. Brown turns 29 next April so I imagine they’ll look to younger options, viewing him as a one-year band-aid.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

GUARDS & CENTERS

Travis Frederick – Signed through 2016

The Cowboys get one more season before they have to give Frederick a nice payday. There’s no question that they will look to lock him up for a long time. It may even come before the end of next season.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Zack Martin – Signed through 2017

We’ll be saying the exact same thing about Martin next year that we are about Frederick today. He’s a fixture.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

La’el Collins – Signed through 2017

The future is now at left guard. Collins has taken over the job and, given the recent spark in the run game, is unlikely to be giving it back.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 100%

Ron Leary – 2016 Restricted Free Agent

While there’s always a chance Dallas could try to retain Leary as a backup, I just don’t see it. They will likely let him move on to try and find some work as a starter, and I think he will given the notoriety of having been part of this line the last few years. I doubt Dallas will even give him a RFA tender and just let him seek a future elsewhere.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 10%

Mackenzy Bernadeau – 2016 Unrestricted Free Agent

He’s enjoyed several years as a highly-paid backup, and has been a good insurance policy for the Cowboys at both guard and center. Turning 30 in January, Bernadeau could still find work as a starter in the league. Dallas will likely let him test the open market, but I could see him coming back to the same backup role if he doesn’t get any offers.

LIKELIHOOD TO RETURN: 25%
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Thanks for reading! I’ll be hitting the defense and special teams position this weekend. Stay tuned!

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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