With the Dallas Cowboys season officially over and the team transitioning into the 2018 offseason, some tough questions about this roster must be answered. Whether it’s Dez Bryant’s contract, the future of LB Anthony Hitchens, or which holes the team will prioritize come draft day, the decisions over the next few months will greatly shape the future of the Dallas Cowboys.
Stephen Jones and company have a very important offseason ahead of them, but there’s one player in particular entering free agency I would like to see back in 2018: offensive linemen Jonathan Cooper.
Cooper has had a somewhat tumultuous career.
The former first-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals found himself on three different teams during the 2016 season, despite putting in some solid work with the Cleveland Browns. His most recent stop was here in Dallas, and though originally thought of as simply a depth signing, Cooper proved to be quite valuable as the 2017 season wore on.
When the Cowboys decided to move La’el Collins to right tackle permanently, Cooper and former third-round pick Chaz Green were left to battle for the starting left guard spot. Chaz Green was named the starter pretty much from the jump, but injuries and inconsistent play opened the door for Jonathan Cooper.
Once he got his shot, Cooper played some solid football and left the coaching staff no other option but to keep him as the starting guard for the remainder of 2017. And while some of his fellow linemen battled injuries throughout the year, Cooper remained healthy and steady for nearly the entire season.
Unfortunately for Jonathan Cooper, he suffered a leg injury during the meaningless season finale last Sunday. Hopefully he will recover quickly, and the injury won’t hurt his prospects in free agency too much.
Jonathan Cooper was nowhere near the perfect player, but for the right price, I’d really like to see him back with the Cowboys next season.
He proved that he is good enough to start at left guard for this team, and when Tyron Smith was healthy, we saw minimal issues from that left side of the line. Even if you still view him as a replacement level player, which is probably accurate, he still provides value if/when needed for spot-starts or in relief of injured players.
Plus, with all of the holes this team clearly has to fill, do we really want to add left guard onto the list?
Dallas likely needs to revamp their receiving corps and improve multiple spots on the defense already, so drafting a guard early could get in the way of developing the rest of the roster (unless his name is Quenton Nelson).
Will he ever be an All-Pro? No, probably not. But with the way the salary cap works, there’s simply no way to piece five all-stars together on the offensive line while building a competent team around them.
So, in all likelihood, the Cowboys will just have to settle for three-to-four of those linemen.