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    Cowboys Face Moral Dilemma With Ronald Leary

    If you asked a Cowboys fan to name their top five Dallas , I assume that few would mention .

    He spent of most of last year on the bench and will be a restricted . Dallas has all the leverage and can likely hold on to Leary for a modest one-year deal using the second-round RFA tender, which in 2016 is likely to pay around $2.5 million. Given Leary's experience and proven ability, that is a bargain price for a reliable backup.

    However, if you look at the big picture, you have to wonder if it's the right thing to do.

    2015 – Leary Loses Job to La'el Collins

    Despite starting for last year's division-winning team and helping  have a record-breaking season, Leary enters this somewhat forgotten after losing his starting job to .  A groin led to him being inactive in Week 3 and allowed Collins to take over, a move that the was probably not too disappointed to have to make.

    After going undrafted due to an unresolved legal issue, Collins was a rare first-round talent that Dallas was able to add in . Collins was brought in to be part of the team's long-term future, leaving no room for Leary to have the same opportunity.

    Cowboys Headlines - The Cowboys' Moral Dilemma with Ronald Leary
    La'el Collins has received first-round treatment since joining the Cowboys.

    Dallas certainly didn't do wrong by Leary in giving the job to Collins last year.

    After 's injury and the piled-up losses it was no time to worry about veteran loyalty. Though I doubt they'd have given the job back to Leary even if the team was in contention, there was certainly no reason to do it with nothing to play for. Those game reps will serve Collins very well next year and Dallas was right to keep the rookie on the field.

    However, that then leads me to this question: should the Cowboys show Ronald Leary some compassion now?

    2016 – Leary's RFA Status

    Since he was originally undrafted himself, Leary won't earn the Cowboys any compensation if they use the low-end RFA tender of what should be around $1.5 million. Therefore, the only way Dallas can use his restricted status to their advantage is with the roughly $2.5 million second-round tender. That means a team who signs Leary would have to surrender a second-round pick to the Cowboys.

    In Leary's case, and especially given the position he plays, it would almost certainly take him out of consideration for any other clubs.

    There is plenty to like about Leary on paper.

    He will turn just 27 in April and has been part of one of the NFL's best offensive lines the last two years. He shouldn't be expensive after what happened in 2015. There has always been the fear that degenerative knee issues would eventually cut his career short but so far Leary has not shown signs of problems there. I could definitely see a team giving him a modest contract if he was on the open market.

    However, no team is going to give up a second-round pick for an interior lineman with bad knees. Even if without the health issue, Leary plays a position that typically is less valued throughout the league than most others.

    Traditionally, though this has shifted a bit in recent years, some of a draft's premiere guard and prospects weren't even getting picked until the . If a a guard then they will likely feel they can use their second round pick to take someone younger, with more upside, and without the injury concern.

    Dallas' Dilemma

    Do the Cowboys owe Leary the chance to get a multi-year deal and an opportunity to start with another team? If the rare fortune of getting La'el Collins had never come to them, the Cowboys would likely be considering giving Leary a three or four-year deal themselves.

    This may be his last shot to make a real NFL payday, having played for less than $500K each of the last three years.

    Though the NFL is a business, players are often sold on the idea of team pride and family within the organization. It's easy for front offices to forget all that during the offseason but players never forget. Franchises can develop reputations for being player-friendly or cold-hearted, and those reps can come back to bite you when trying to lure free agents.

    The Cowboys certainly won't be wrong if they decide to use the restricted tender to hold on to Leary. It's a provision that the players collectively-bargained to allow and teams have every right to use it. Leary will be a fantastic backup for the price and you can't blame a team for making shrewd roster moves.

    However, is this a time that they should act with their hearts over their heads?  They have just 10 days until the March 9th deadline to decide.

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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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    Ernie

    Speaking of teams being fair to the players, does anyone know if Sean Lee got his $500,000 that he initially lost because he missed the last game?

    Zac Fields

    I kinda think this situation is perfect for Leary, depending on how you look at it.

    He dropped from a solid 3rd round grade (which is where many starting guards are drafted) to undrafted because of a degenerative knee problem. Everyone knew he could play in his rookie season but the problem was that nobody knew how long his career could be.

    To me, that problem isn't any better today than it was when he was a rookie. In fact, 3 years into his career, now you're down to wondering if he's got one year left, two years, or is he already done now?

    I'm just not sure if he hit free agency if he would get a ton of interest for that reason. It could turn out that getting tagged and making a cool $2.5 million for this season is a great deal for him.

    But I do see your point. What if a team out there was willing to give him $3-4 million for two seasons? It's at least a little security.