I just did a quick look at fifteen mock drafts from some of the most popular sites and all of them but one had Laremy Tunsil, an offensive tackle from Ole Miss, going first overall to the Tennessee Titans. The one outlier had defensive back Jalen Ramsey going to the Titans and Tunsil being taken third by the San Diego Chargers.
But what if Tunsil, currently a near-unanimous pick as the draft’s best player were to fall to Dallas at the number-four pick? Would the Cowboys have to consider taking him?
Offensive tackle is one of the least of Dallas’ concerns right now. Tyron Smith’s current deal expires in 2023 and he’s expected to be a fixture at left tackle through that time. Veteran Doug Free has two years left on his contract and is still performing up to his salary. Last year Dallas spent a third-round pick on Chaz Green and will hope that he can be groomed into Free’s eventual replacement.
If Tunsil is there at number-four, though, should Dallas just stick to the plan? When can you afford to let potentially elite talent pass you by?
If Tunsil is available then it means Ramsey, the consensus for Dallas’ most-coveted prospect, was likely taken in the top three. One of the top quarterbacks, either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, is sure to go to the Cleveland Browns with the second pick. Many believe that the Chargers will take a defensive end, either Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner, with their pick if they can’t get Ramsey.
Dallas would still have many options if the dominoes fall that way. They may be looking at whichever of the aforementioned quarterbacks or defensive ends are still on the board. Perhaps they would take Ezekiel Elliott as the future of the running back position or add Myles Jack strengthen the linebacker group.
If Ramsey and the quarterback they wanted are gone then Dallas may be strongly seeking a trade-down partner. Tunsil being available would aid that cause greatly and could motivate them even more to slide back. However, I think Dallas would have to consider staying put and adding Tunsil to their already fabulous offensive line.
Adding Tunsil would end all concerns about the offensive line for the next four or five years. As the number-four pick he would be making about $5 million per year through 2020, which is right around what they are currently paying Doug Free. By the time his rookie deal expires Dallas will have freed up loads of cap space from Tony Romo’s departure and should be able to keep all of their offensive linemen on staff.
If they drafted Tunsil then Dallas would have options now on what to do with Free. They could keep him to compete with and push Tunsil in training camp then keep him as an expensive backup for on year. A $5.5 million cap hit is rich for any reserve but not crazy when you consider that top offensive tackles make more than double that amount.
If they release Free after the draft then it would lead to $3 million in dead money and an immediate $2.5 million in savings. Dallas would almost certainly split that over two years with the June 1st provision and only have a $1.5 million penalty on the cap in 2016 and 2017 by cutting Free loose.
Nobody’s going to lose sleep over what this means for Chaz Green. Third-round picks are never sure to pan out and Dallas has had an ugly past with mid-round offensive line prospects. If Green becomes our next swing tackle for three seasons and walks then that’s a perfectly adequate outcome. If he has even greater value then perhaps Dallas can eventually move him in a trade to recoup the pick.
Many of you will likely balk at this idea, citing our much greater needs at other positions. I wouldn’t disagree with you, either. However, I think this highly rare scenario would have to give the Cowboys pause enough to make full consideration of what adding Tunsil could do the future of the offensive line.
With still almost two months to go until the draft, is there really any scenario that’s off the table?