The Dallas Cowboys cleared up salary cap space the other day by restructuring the contracts of offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. Both players missed all or nearly all of the 2020 season with injuries and brought the question of drafting an offensive tackle with a premium pick to the forefront in 2021.
Yesterday, fellow Staff Writer Brian Martin here at InsideTheStar.com wrote a piece crossing offensive tackle off the list of potential directions the Dallas Cowboys could go with the 10th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Brian makes a great point that the Cowboys must feel really good about the health of their tackles as they head into draft season. However, given the issues the Cowboys have had along the offensive line, it wouldn't be wise for the Cowboys to ignore the offensive line.
Yes, when healthy, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins are one of the better tackle tandems in the NFL, but that “when healthy” caveat is being used far too often when describing the Cowboys offensive line situation. Throw in the back issues that have cropped up with Zack Martin over the last couple of years and you have an aging offensive line with injuries in areas of the body that are extremely vital to an offensive lineman's performance.
Tyron's neck is going to be involved in every snap. As is his back. As is La'el's hips. As is Zack's back. Ignoring offensive line solely because you restructured these contracts and have a good feeling that these players will be able to see the end of their contracts isn't a wise plan.
Remember, when drafting you aren't simply looking at the coming season, but are drafting with two or three years in mind. Like in the 2017 NFL Draft. Sure, the Cowboys needed an infusion of secondary talent when they drafted Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, and Xavier Woods. At the same time, the Cowboys saw that Byron Jones and Jeff Heath would have contracts expiring after the 2019 season as well. They would need players to help bridge the gap and provide some insurance if they lost those players in free agency, which they did.
Scratching any position off your draft list isn't a good approach to drafting. Had the Cowboys completely ruled out wide receiver before the 2020 NFL Draft because they had Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, they wouldn't have landed CeeDee Lamb and we know how good of a draft pick that was in his rookie year.
As Stephen Jones mentioned in the press conference to announce Dak Prescott's contract signing, the Cowboys have to keep an open mind when it comes to any position in the NFL Draft. Ruling out a position leaves you open to draft mistakes. Had the Cowboys passed on Lamb for another position, it might have worked, but they wouldn't have hit the home run they hit by adding arguably the best wide receiver in the draft.
The Cowboys at 10 will be in a great position to add a standout defensive player to their roster for 2021 and that's likely the direction they'll go. Patrick Surtain, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn are excellent prospects that will fit nicely in Dan Quinn's defense. But there are also several really offensive players and offensive tackles that could be available there for the Dallas Cowboys as well.
Rashawn Slater is a player that the Dallas Cowboys could plug in right away at right tackle or at left guard on their offensive line. They don't need him, but given the injury history of Tyron Smith, it would be wise to consider drafting Slater at 10 and getting him ready to play left tackle in the even Smith continues to have issues with his neck and back.
Going into free agency or the NFL Drat, you want to keep an open mind, because you never know the opportunities that will present themselves. Completely ruling out a position may cause the Cowboys to miss on a significant upgrade at a position group that they might not have thought of otherwise.
That reality led to CeeDee Lamb at 17 last year, and I think it's safe to say, we all enjoyed his fine work during his first year in the NFL. Keep an open mind.