After the Cowboys set their sights on gaining cap space by any means necessary this offseason, the team has just over $15 million in the bank. That sounds good on the surface, but what’s the point in having cap space if you aren’t going to use it?
The offensive line is one area the Cowboys can target with that cap space. Three weeks ago, the Cleveland Browns cut center J.C. Tretter, and he remains unsigned despite being one of the best at his position.
Tretter posted a 78.7 Pro Football Focus grade with the Browns last season, the sixth-highest at his position. Arguably the league’s best pass-blocking center, his 83.7 pass-blocking grade ranked only behind the Chargers’ Corey Linsley. He’s consistently been one of the NFL’s highest-graded centers, posting PFF grades above 70 since 2018.
Tretter also brings something the Dallas offensive line has lacked in recent years: durability. He’s started at least 16 games in the past five seasons and has missed just one game since 2016. Tretter is also well-liked amongst players, being re-elected as President of the NFL Players Association on March 12.
Currently, the Cowboys employ Tyler Biadasz at center. He’s had his moments, but has largely been average in his first two seasons. He had his chance to start a full season in 2021 and finished with a PFF grade of 65.1, the lowest of any starter on Dallas’ offensive line. Biadasz had a solid end to the 2021 season, but has yet to play at a starting level consistently.
The playoff loss to the 49ers exposed glaring weaknesses in the Cowboys’ offensive line. The whole unit played poorly, including Biadasz, who gave up a sack. With the departures of Connor Williams and La’el Collins, it’s an area that needs fixing. Tretter would be a massive upgrade at one of the weakest positions on Dallas’ offensive line.
Tretter enters his 10th NFL season in 2022 and spent his time in Cleveland anchoring one of the league’s best offensive lines. The 31-year-old’s asking price should fit within Dallas’ salary cap, as he made around $10.85 million last season with a salary cap hit of around $11 million.
Outside of Tretter, there aren’t that many options to upgrade at center. Matt Paradis is the only other free agent center with starting experience and wouldn’t be a clear upgrade from Biadasz. Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is an exciting prospect at center in the draft, but it’s unlikely he’ll fall to where Dallas picks at No. 24. Because options are lacking, it’s possible Dallas sticks with Biadasz at center. However, you risk running into the same problems as last season.
Other positions of need like guard and wide receiver can be solved in the draft. Players like guards Kenyon Green and Zion Johnson and wide receivers Chris Olave and Treylon Burks should be available at pick No. 24. The center class, outside of Linderbaum, is very thin. If the Cowboys want to solve their offensive line woes, they need to be aggressive. Signing Tretter boosts the entire unit and brings stability to a position that’s needed repair since Travis Frederick’s retirement.