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Does 2020 Disaster Lead to Offseason Changes at OT for Cowboys?

While Dak Prescott’s injury was certainly the biggest blow to the roster in 2020, La’el Collins and Tyron Smith missed even more time and were huge part in the Cowboys’ struggles. As our Position Preview series continues, what should Dallas do this offseason to avoid being held hostage again by the offensive tackles?

When healthy, Collins and Smith just might be the best pair of bookends on any NFL offensive line today. Tyron has been one of the league’s best left tackles for years now and Collins emerged in 2018 as a standout player on the right side.

Unfortunately, health has become a recurring issue for this duo. Tyron Smith has missed at least three games every season from 2016-2019 and last year missed 14 after neck surgery. La’el Collins missed all of 2020 with a troubling hip injury and surgery that some players have struggled to fully recover from.

This leaves the Cowboys in a tough spot; do you hope for the best with your starting tackles’ health or do you start preparing for the worst?

2021 Offensive Tackle Contract Statuses

  • Signed
    • Isaac Alarcon
    • La’el Collins
    • Mitch Hyatt
    • Brandon Knight
    • Eric Smith
    • Tyron Smith
    • Terence Steele
    • William Sweet
  • Free Agents
    • Cameron Erving (U)
    • Greg Senat (R)
U = Unrestricted, R = Restricted, E = Exclusive Rights

The Cowboys tried to bolster their OT depth in 2020 by adding veteran Cameron Erving, who replaced previous swing tackle Cameron Fleming. But Erving missed 10 games himself dye to injury and wasn’t especially good when he did play.

Brandon Knight was the best backup tackle for the Cowboys and should be a leading contender for the swing job in 2021. He is competent enough on either side of the line but still not a guy you’d want playing most of the season ideally.

Last year showed what happens when both starters go down. Dallas was forced to play a liability like Terence Steele far too often and eventually had to slide Zack Martin over to tackle rather than keep the undrafted rookie on the field.

True, no NFL team is probably stocked enough to handle the number of offensive line injuries that the Cowboys faced in 2020. But with neither Collins or Smith being reliable at this point, it leaves Dallas with a glaring concern this offseason.

Plus, given Tyron Smith’s age and contract situation, the Cowboys may want to make a move now to provide immediate depth and prepare for future change.

Tyron Smith
Dallas Cowboys OT Tyron Smith

As has already been written about and likely will remain an offseason topic, Smith’s contract gives the Cowboys one of their best opportunities to clear cap space in 2021. Tyron’s issues with staying on the field the last five seasons only increase the possibility of Dallas making a move.

I stated in the linked article above that I don’t believe the Cowboys will make this move now. They’d still have a lot of dead money to contend with and would create a major hole at left tackle that they’re not ready to fill.

But next year, when Tyron’s a year older and Dallas can save about $10 million in cap space, cutting Smith becomes more sensible. It also gives the Cowboys 2021 to prepare for that move by perhaps drafting an eventual replacement.

If a top offensive tackle prospect is available at Dallas’ 10th overall pick then it wouldn’t be a bad choice. This player could potentially start right away, allowing La’el Collins to go back to left guard, or would at least upgrade the OT depth for 2021 as he’s groomed for the future.

Even if the Cowboys are fine with Brandon Knight as the 2021 swing tackle, do they really see him taking over a starting job in the near future? And how confident is the team in La’el Collins’ long-term health prospects?  These are the driving questions which could push Dallas towards an OT prospect this April.

Of course, we’d rather see that pick go to someone who provides clear, immediate help at a position like defensive tackle or safety. But all it takes is one injury to either Collins or Smith for that rookie OT to suddenly look like a very wise investment.

Given recent history, that one injury should probably be anticipated and planned for.

The Cowboys can’t let this position undermine the offense like it did in 2020. We saw the effect on the run game and in costly turnovers even before Dak Prescott went out, and of course it made life much harder for Andy Dalton and other backups quarterbacks throughout the year,

Even if no backups can completely replace studs like Tyron Smith or La’el Collins, Dallas should invest some resources this offseason to create as much insurance as possible at a critical position.

~ ~ ~

Other Cowboys 2021 Position Previews

QB | RB | WR | TE | G | C

DE | DT | LB | CB | S

Special Teams

(Click the position above to jump to article. Links will become active as articles are published.)

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by 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!

Comments

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  1. I’ve been a fan along time around 45 years I guess and now I’m ashamed to wear the gear that I have purchased over the years and I read these articles for entertainment and it’s just not fun anymore so I’m going to stop reading and commenting I’m sure nobody cares about that but me and that’s Ok good luck on the future and hope you all never reach this point good bye

  2. I feel you Don , this team has been an EMBARRASSMENT for 25 years , and it isn’t looking like that’ll change anytime soon , it sucks , I ain’t got much else to say

  3. Every year Dallas bargain shops for a hidden jewel, kinda like gambling. They’re addicted, they take chances on broken players. Broken physically or mentally. For years they knew they needed a playmaker at safety and they went out to the flea market to get one. Some of their best players were taken in later rounds and really lucked out. They wore out Tony Romo before getting a great offensive line and a running back.

  4. Don, hang in there. Hopefully if we draft well and pick up some good FAs, next year will be better.

    BTW, I’ve been a fan for 54 years. I’m a die hard, I guess.

  5. Good points Barry, I agree, they seem to procrastinate a lot, and as you say bargain shop too much. DT and safety (they passed on A Winfield Jr, now with a SB ring) have been long time neglected, but then they overpay some players, EE, DL, AC etc. I think they need to get better accountants, LOL.

  6. Not to beat a dead horse but having a talented GM would do this team wonders. The role of the GM Is often times overlooked on successful teams. The coaches and players get the credit, but the GM is the key cog that is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

  7. I am also like Don been a fan for over 46 years . I am so embarrassed and My 10 year old grandson has given up on the Cowboys and So am I. Good luck. Jerry has one thing on his mind to make more money and not put a winner on the field and His is following his foot steps. Good by.

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