The Dallas Cowboys have been busy this offseason at offensive line. But while they’ve made several moves to help deal with the loss of Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, should they consider another one to upgrade the talent at left guard? Another Pro Bowler, Larry Warford, is available on the open market.
I didn’t think much of Warford as an option for Dallas when the Saints released him last Friday. The Cowboys don’t have a lot of salary cap flexibility left after signing QB Andy Dalton, and I assumed Warford’s asking price would be out of their range. He’s coming off three-straight Pro Bowls and turns just 29 next month.
But this morning, a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport stated that Larry is only looking for about $7 million in base salary from his next team. That would be a steal for his talent level; about of what Zack Martin and other top NFL guards make.
Why the discount? Well, there is some damage to Warford’s reputation after being cut by New Orleans. It was noted by one Saints reporter that his performance was in decline, perhaps due to poor conditioning.
The primary reason for the move, though, was that cutting Warford saved New Orleans $7 million in salary cap space in 2020. The down year just made the decision easier.
So now we have Larry Warford looking for a new team and a chance to revive his career. His reduced contract demand indicates that he acknowledges the need to do some image rehabilitation.
And of 2020 is going to be anything like last season, there isn’t a much better place to do that than with the Dallas Cowboys.
Just look at what happened to WR Randall Cobb and DE Robert Quinn after their single seasons with the Cowboys. Coming off down years themselves, both veterans had strong 2019 performances for Dallas and flipped them into lucrative contracts with new teams this offseason.
There’s no doubt that Larry Warford could benefit himself greatly by joining the Cowboys’ offensive line. He would have Pro Bowl players around him and the league’s biggest spotlight to help get national recognition. A one-year facelift in Dallas could set him up well for free agency in 2021.
The questions are really on the Cowboys’ side. Can they afford to meet Warford’s price? And if so, is he worth stunting growth of younger prospects?
I just wrote two days ago on how Dallas has already loaded up on options for their 2020 offensive line. They already looked good after re-signing Joe Looney and drafting Tyler Biadasz, but then they signed former 1st-Round pick Cameron Erving as well.
However, if he’s motivated and in shape, Larry Warford has already proven to be a top NFL talent. He could upgrade one spot on the line and help replace the overall talent level after Travis Frederick’s retirement.
One sticking point could be that Warford’s experience is mostly at right guard, which of course is already occupied by Zack Martin. The Cowboys would need to be confident that one of them could transition to the left side and maintain the same level of play.
Dallas would also need to make a little cap room to facilitate the deal. They have two fairly easy options to consider, and one involves the departed Frederick.
While Frederick did announce he retirement in March, the actually filing date hasn’t been reported on yet. That means there still could be option to make it a post-June 1st filing and spread the dead money over the next two seasons.
Guess how much that frees up in 2020? Exactly $7 million.
While that would push about $5 million of dead money onto the 2021 salary cap, using the cap space from a who isn’t helping you now to add one who would is a strong play for this season.
However, one caveat to this move would be that Dallas wouldn’t actually have the cap space to sign Warford until June 1st. But they could agree in principle and just make it official in a few weeks.
Another option would be cutting DE/DT Tryone Crawford, which saves an immediate $8 million if done today. As I discussed in an article yesterday, Crawford might not even make the 2020 roster if Dallas is confident in its free agent additions and young prospects.
But another factor in the Cowboys’ dealings with Tyrone is that he shares an agent with QB Dak Prescott. There is a thought floating out there that Dallas is trying to place nice with Crawford to help grease the wheels in their negotiations with Prescott.
So yes, the Dallas Cowboys could absolutely sign Larry Warford. But the question if they should is one only they can answer.
Perhaps they’d rather see how Connor Williams performs in third season. Or they may just let the interior line competition unfold with Joe Looney, Connor McGovern, Cameron Erving, and Tyler Biadasz all also in the mix.
I promise, I try not to link every free agent out there to the Cowboys. But this is one time where I think Dallas could truly improve itself with the move and has a reasonable argument for making it happen.