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    Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB?

    The Cowboys did not add any new talent to the group for the . came and went without any fresh faces being signed. Though they drafted in the he is not expected to play this year. To the surprise of some, Dallas will trust in last year's group to develop and improve.

    Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB? 1All of those players but one were still under contract; , , , and . Rather than just allow those four to compete, Dallas still elected to re-sign to a two-year deal. That decision certainly puts a spotlight on Wilber right now among his peers.

    Granted, there's another way to spin the re-. Dallas may have seen Wilber simply as a trusted reserve who also offers some pass-rushing skill, which they certainly need. His contract only totaled $3.25 for two seasons, which is backup money. He may not have a leg up on anyone for the third starting job, or even be in consideration for it.

    That said, there are several reasons to believe that Dallas could be eyeing Wilber for the job. Consider the following:

    1. They Re-Signed Him Before the Draft

    Dallas did not wait until after seeing how the draft or free agency unfolded before deciding to keep Wilber. Free agency opened on March 9th and Wilber was signed on March 11th. Dallas didn't even make him wait on the market and try to drive his value down, as they've done with some other veterans in the past. That decisiveness speaks to a certain value they place on the fifth-year veteran.

    2. Slower Development

    Though he's never emerged as a star, Wilber has remained useful despite having to adjust to the 4-3 scheme after being originally drafted to be a 3-4 . He's had to learn how to play in coverage and the transition has likely slowed his development from what we tend to expect.

    Dallas recognizes this and may feel that Wilber's best years are ahead. If he can build on the last four years and reach peak performance now, the Cowboys will be getting quality play at a major bargain.

    Cowboys Headlines - Is Kyle Wilber the Front Runner for OLB? 2
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    3. Not a Full-Time Starter

    Though it's a starting position in the “base ,” the strongside linebacker gets limited snaps compared to middle and weakside guys. When the Cowboys move to their nickel, it's the strongside LB who leaves the field for that third to come on. Against passing teams, it's not uncommon for the nickel defense to be used more than the base scheme.

    As the Cowboys look to manage their and keep their resources in the most important positions, perhaps a guy with Wilber's dependability is enough for them in that third LB role. He may not play more than 40% of the snaps in the season, so why not spend your draft picks and cap dollars elsewhere?

    4. Pass Rushing Ability

    With returning and likely moving to , Dallas' confidence in their will likely increase. This could allow for them to utilize more blitzing in the front seven which makes Wilber's strongest attribute even more valuable.

    As was mentioned, Wilber started in the league as a 3-4 outside rusher. If the Cowboys don't ask their linebackers to drop back into coverage as much then Wilber could be used to attack the edges more than ever since moving to the 4-3. That versatility will only allow to be more creative.

    5. The Prototype

    If Marinelli sees his strongside linebackers according to the traditional 4-3 textbook, Wilber fits the mold better than the rest. Hitchens, Gachkar, and Wilson are all a little smaller and better suited for the middle and weakside roles. Nzeocha has size but is almost still a rookie after being injured most of last year.

    Wilber is best suited to stand up against the run of any of the OLB candidates. He has also proven to have enough coverage skill to not be a major liability. While size isn't everything, it is a good tiebreaker when talent appears to be even.

    ~ ~ ~

    Cowboys Headlines - Dallas Cowboys Re-Sign Linebacker Kyle WilberRight now, everything seems pretty even among Wilber and his fellow linebacker prospects. and are the only guys with clear roles and starting jobs. We don't know how the Cowboys have these other players rated against each other and who they're favoring for certain roles at this point.

    However, we do know that they thought enough of Wilber to re-sign him. We know that Wilber started as many games last year (nine) as any of the other candidates. Dallas may be most comfortable with Wilber based on his experience and production thus far.

    For a position that isn't necessarily critical, just being comfortable is okay. You can live with that. Based on the new contract, Dallas seems okay living with Wilber for a couple more years.

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    Jess Haynie
    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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