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Cowboys Right Tackle: Who Replaces Recently Retired Doug Free?

Brian Martin

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How Should The Dallas Cowboys Replace RT Doug Free?

With the recent announcement of Doug Free's retirement, the Dallas Cowboys now have a hole to fill in their offensive line at the right tackle position. Whether or not the new Cowboys right tackle is currently on the roster or if they have to look outside for help, I thought it was a good time to explore all of their options.

You can say all you want about Doug Free, but he's been a mainstay on the right side of the Cowboys offensive line for nearly a decade and his veteran leadership will certainly be missed in the locker room. Unfortunately, age catches up with all athletes and his play on the field was noticeably starting to decline. He chose to leave the game on his own terms, instead of waiting for his fate to be chosen for him.

For the Dallas Cowboys offensive line to continue to be one of the best units in the NFL, they absolutely have to do their due diligence in order to find their next starting right tackle. Below we will examine the Cowboys options to find Doug Free's replacement for 2017 and beyond.

Cowboys In-House Options

OT Emmett ClearyThe Dallas Cowboys are certainly hoping that Doug Free's replacement is currently on the roster. That means they don't have to bring in anyone else and can put their minds at ease they will once again have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL. But, only they know how comfortable they are with their current in-house options.

Chaz Green is probably the favorite to step in and become the right tackle in 2017. That is why he was drafted in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft to begin with. Green has filled in nicely as an injury replacement and played well when given the chance, but he simply can't stay healthy. That's not very encouraging if you're looking for stability at the right tackle position.

Emmett Cleary is another in-house option the Cowboys could look at to replace Doug Free. Like Green, Cleary has played well as an injury replacement, so we could see an open competition between the two tackles this off-season.

Of course, the wildcard here is La'el Collins. The signing of offensive guard Jonathan Cooper gives the Cowboys some flexibility with what they want to do with Collins. He was a tackle in college at LSU, but the Cowboys like him better inside as a guard. Cooper can be the Cowboys new starting left guard, which would allow Collins to kick outside right tackle.

Unfortunately, will have to wait and see exactly how they feel about their in-house options.

Sign a Veteran Free Agent

OT Austin PasztorI think it's unlikely that the Dallas Cowboys decide to go this route, but signing a veteran free agent tackle they could plug-in and play right away has its advantages. The reason I don't see them going this route though is because of the money involved. But, if they could find a bargain, that certainly changes things.

Ryan Clady, King Dunlap, Sebastian Vollmer, and even Austin Pasztor are all available free agent tackles the Cowboys could look to bring in. All of them have started in the NFL and could even be an upgrade if all parties can come together by working out a contract that is mutually beneficial to everyone involved.

I personally don't see them going this route with both with Chaz Green and Emmett Cleary on the roster, but things can change in a blink of an eye if they decide they don't like their current options.

Draft a Rookie Replacement

OT Cam RobinsonThe Dallas Cowboys have built their impressive offensive line through the draft, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they decided to go this route once again. This isn't the deepest class for offensive lineman, so they might have to invest yet another early round draft pick if they're looking for someone to plug-in as a rookie.

If the Cowboys are looking for an instant starter as a rookie, then they will probably have to hope either Ryan Ramczyk, Garett Bolles, or Cam Robinson are still available when they're on the clock at 28 in the first round. Of course, there are other options available later in the draft, but they might not be ready to step in right away.

Since the Cowboys do currently have options on the roster, they don't have to reach for a prospect. They can let the draft play out and if there's an offensive tackle sitting there they think can come in and be an upgrade, then they will certainly pull the trigger.

There's no way of knowing right now what they will do to replace Doug Free, but this will certainly be a situation we will all probably be keeping a close watchful eye on. For the Dallas Cowboys to have a successful 2017 season, finding the right replacement at right tackle could be the deciding factor.

How do you think the Dallas Cowboys should replace Doug Free?



Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

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4 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    Would expect the OL draft strategy is to look for value and/or a project with talent down the draft. Especially someone with swing ability like Collins. But unless it’s just an offensive player that can’t be passed on, pretty sure the focus up the draft stays on defense this year.

    So they have to add on the OL – whether that way or F/A. I like the idea of Collins at RT because it should be an instant upgrade from Free, and it may be the thing that keeps him healthy. Also LG should be an easier proposition to fill – whether that is Cooper, draft or F/A.

    And LG is a lucky position for Dallas. Nate Newton and Ronald Leary, both went undrafted.

    • Brian Martin

      There is no way of really knowing what the Cowboys are going to do to address the RT position. Personally, I don’t understand why everybody wants to move Collins. The Cowboys tried him there previously in training camp and obviously didn’t really like what they saw. That is why he has been the left guard. I think they are ready to go with Green and Cleary, but wouldn’t hesitate to draft a OT if they thought it was an upgrade.

      • Russ_Te

        Collins has the size and athleticism for T, but if he just doesn’t look as good there, no doubt that will affect what they do. I see the move outside as a possibility not really a probability. If they think Cooper fills the LG, they may decide to look again at Collins for RT. But if it’s a drop off for him, better to go another direction of course.

        More confident about the draft approach – defense early unless an offensive player falls whom it would be foolish to pass on. In any case, I think they’ll find an intriguing project or two who could turn into an OL starter down the road.

        • Brian Martin

          Russ, I agree with all that.

Star Blog

How Should The Cowboys, And The NFL, Value RBs?

Kevin Brady

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Will Cowboys' Offense Improve With Ezekiel Elliott's Return?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

There is no one, stand-alone "best" strategy for winning in the NFL. There are, of course, common themes and ideals which run true year in and year out among the top teams.

Strategy in the NFL is dynamic, or at least it should be. Running in place for too long under the same leadership often breeds mediocrity, and refusing to move with current trends can put you at a severe disadvantage.

Succumbing to those trends without fully analyzing the confounding factors your situation presents, however, can also ruin a team building exercise.

With that being said, should teams pay elite running backs top dollar? Or are those running backs expendable, replaceable, and often forgettable within the NFL machine?

To be honest these aren't very fair ways to pose legitimately interesting questions. You can acknowledge that a running back is important to your offense while also acknowledging that you don't want to break the bank for a position with such injury risk and high turnover year-to-year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are currently facing this dilemma, as their star running back Le'Veon Bell asks to be paid like an elite "weapon," not as a normal running back. And when you examine how the Steelers deploy Bell within their offense, he clearly has a point.

Bell is not your traditional "running back." He lines up on the boundary, in the slot, and is a passing threat out of the backfield as well. On top of all of this versatility, Bell is an excellent pass protector, something which is often lost among other "versatile" backs.

Bell can quite literally do it all for an offense, but the idea of paying that position elite-level money makes teams cringe. As The Athletic's Marcus Mosher pointed out on Twitter, teams like the New England Patriots have been able to replicate Bell's production by using multiple speciality backs rather than one workhorse.

In theory, this takes away the injury risk component to a certain extent. Rather than giving one player 350-400 touches per season, you spread those touches out and allow for players to do what they do best.

Lately, the NFL has seemed to agree that this is the most efficient way to play offense. But when you have a player like Bell or Ezekiel Elliott, in what way is taking the ball out of their hands "efficient" at all? In addition, how is using three players to mimic the skill set of one efficient?

Yes, the NFL is a passing league, but when you have a playmaker who is of the caliber of a Bell or an Elliott, it is up to the offense to deploy in him ways that maximize his value. Teams should be using the Bells and Elliotts of the world as pass catching threats and as weapons all over the field. Force the entire defense to account for your running back rather than just jamming him between the tackles like it's 1975.

The movement towards "running back by committee" rather than the traditional one-back system can also be credited to the lack of workhorse-worthy backs entering the league.

Ezekiel Elliotts don't grow on trees, they are rare and special players. And when you have one, especially when you spend a premium pick on him, you should get the most out of him that you can. Playing winning offense in the NFL is about more than just "do you run or do you pass," and it often hinges on creating splash plays of 15-20 yards.

If you can get those plays through the use of an elite running back, that player becomes intrinsically valuable to your team. No matter what "position" he is labeled as. Of course you want to be able create mismatches in the passing game all over the field, so when you are able to do this with a running back, shouldn't that be deemed as highly valuable?

We can't say just yet if the Cowboys should re-sign Ezekiel Elliott once he enters free agency. After all, five seasons (and a franchise tag year) where he touches the ball more than most players in the league will almost certainly bring about some wear and tear.

But with the way the Cowboys have chosen to play offense, and the way in which they've built their roster, a workhorse back like Elliott is necessary for success.

Once again, at least it is for now.



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Star Blog

Is DE Kony Ealy At Risk Of Not Making Cowboys Final Roster?

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: As Late FA Signing, New DE Kony Ealy Brings Value at DE

As training camp approaches and we draw closer to the 2018 NFL season, fans are beginning to get excited for new faces, old stars, and new beginnings for the Dallas Cowboys.

One player which has been a bit forgotten about over the last few months, and even overlooked when he was first signed back in April, is defensive end Kony Ealy. Of course, some of this overlooking is justified, as Ealy's career has been filled with more valleys than peaks thus far.

With a fresh start in Dallas, though, some expect Kony Ealy to rekindle his career, and look like the player he was during the Panthers' Super Bowl 50 loss just a few seasons ago. The problem is, that game looks like the outlier and not the norm over his professional career.

Originally drafted by the Carolina Panthers, Ealy has had a shaky start to his career. Now joining his third team in the same number of seasons, it's certainly fair to say he hasn't lived up to his second round draft selection.

At 6'4" and 275 pounds, however, Ealy fits the mold of a 4-3 defensive end in the Cowboys' scheme. While he isn't the explosive pass rusher that other players on the roster are (and can be), he could provide solid rotational depth across the defensive line.

With fellow former second round pick Randy Gregory gaining reinstatement to the NFL this week, Ealy could struggle to salvage any real playing time with the Cowboys at all. Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, and Taco Charlton all feel like locks to make the team.

Then there is 2018 day three pick Dorance Armstrong and former fourth round pick Charles Tapper providing competition as well.

Tapper and Armstrong are unproven, but have the athletic profiles to become solid edge rushers at the professional level. For both, especially Tapper, health is of the upmost concern going forward. If Tapper can remain healthy, he has a real shot of making the team and having his impact felt as early as 2018.

That "if" has been a serious one thus far, however.

When the Cowboys first signed Kony Ealy back in April, I really believed he could provide solid and cheap depth along their defensive line. Now in July, I still have those beliefs, but it's become fair to question if he will even find himself on the final 53-man roster based on the competition around him.



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Star Blog

Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin’s Footsteps?

Brian Martin

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Can Connor Williams Follow in Zack Martin's Footsteps?

Connor Williams has yet to play a single snap the NFL, but there are already some pretty high expectations for the rookie Guard. That's because he will be sandwiched between two Pro Bowl players in Center Travis Frederick and Left Tackle Tyron Smith. But, it's the Dallas Cowboys third Pro Bowl offensive lineman Williams should try to emulate and follow in the footsteps of.

Yes, I'm talking about Zack Martin.

Zack Martin's career couldn't have gotten off to a better start coming out of Notre Dame. He hit the ground running as a rookie with the Cowboys and put together a dominating performance his first year in the NFL, earning his first Pro Bowl bid as well as being named to the All-Pro team. He continued to play at a high level ever since and has not only turned into the best player at his position, but continued his Pro Bowl streak every season since entering the league.

To ask, or even expect Connor Williams to have the same kind of immediate success as Zack Martin is probably a little unfair, if not impossible. The kind of success Martin has had already in his career is almost unheard of. But, that's not to say Williams isn't going to try to follow in Martin's footsteps and to become the best player he can.

Zack Martin

Dallas Cowboys OG Zack Martin

The footsteps I think Connor Williams should try to follow as it pertains to Zack Martin is how well he made the transition from a collegiate Offensive Tackle to an NFL Guard. I think that should be Williams' main focus right now with training camp coming up.

Williams will be inserted into the starting lineup as the Cowboys new Left Guard. It will be a new position for him after playing mainly Tackle at the University of Texas, that will require an entirely new mindset and technique. But, it's in transition I believe he can make rather smoothly.

Connor Williams should benefit from Zack Martin's similar transition from college OT to an NFL OG. I wouldn't be surprised if we see the rookie shadowing Martin throughout training camp to soak up as much knowledge as possible. It's probably the best way for him to jumpstart his career.

Now, I fully expect to see some growing pains from Williams throughout the 2018 season. It's to be expected from any rookie, especially one transitioning to a new position. But, I do believe he will not only be an upgrade at LG for the Cowboys, but will make the entire OL even better.

I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what kind of player Connor Williams ends up being this season.

Do you think Connor Williams can follow in Zack Martin's footsteps?



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